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By Heidi K. Strickler, MS, RD, CSSD, METS I, ISAK 1

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist

Fri Jan 10, 2020

shelf of supplements

“For that extra edge” … “Focus” … “My coach recommended it” …“To fill in nutritional gaps” … “I figure it wouldn’t hurt” … “My teammate uses it” … “I read it boosts endurance” … “To reduce muscle soreness” … “Isn’t this what the pro’s use?”

Fill in the blank with your own reason(s) behind using, or considering, a supplement, because the list is endless. Thus, every time a client of mine inquiries about a supplement, I respond with the following:  

Why do you want or feel like you need this supplement? What result are you looking for? And why do you feel like ‘Supplement X’ is the best option?

I am not only a Registered Sports Dietitian, but I am also a competitive endurance athlete. Professionally and personally, I respect the drive for next-level performance, and the demand athletes put on their bodies calls for supplementation at certain points in a training cycle. Just as an athlete will periodize their training, so too should they periodize their nutrition and supplement regime. Fluctuations like training load, nutrition, injury, time of year, blood and lab results, and performance goals, among other factors, should dictate supplement usage.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) state that “dietary supplements are not needed in the presence of adequate energy intake from a balanced diet, but may benefit athletes who consume suboptimal diets with low micronutrient density or have increased energy or micronutrient demands that cannot be met through food alone.”  

In other words, food first, supplements second.

This excerpt was originally published on September 3, 2019 by USA Triathlon. To read the article in its entirety, read it on the USAT site here.

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