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Essential Checklist: What You Need to Know Before Starting a Sports Supplement

Updated: Nov 21, 2023


sports supplements

Questions to ask yourself PRIOR to taking a new sports supplement:


Nowadays, the odds of meeting someone that doesn't take a sports supplement of some sort is pretty darn low... Yet many people have no idea about supplement safety or efficacy. Did you know the popular brands you're seeing on TikTok (and there's a lot of them) may not even contain the claimed ingredients on the label? *gasp*


What’s the need (ie. deficiency, performance enhancement)? Many people take supplements just to take them or because their mom's brother's sister recommended taking them. Stop to ask yourself if there's really a need or desired benefit and if the supplement you're taking will actually provide that to you. Is there sound evidence to support this supplement in achieving the desired benefit? This is something I talk a lot with colleagues about.... "But, is there strong evidence to support the desired benefit or are we wasting our money here?" Shockingly, there aren't a ton of supplements that have strong evidence to back them. A lot of supplement research finds that the supplement *may provide the desired effects so it'd have to be up to you whether or not you want to spend your money (and usually a lot of it) on these particular products. Can you obtain a sufficient amount from your diet without the use of a supplement? While there are certain vitamins and minerals that we can't get enough of in our diet, there are many that we can. It's important to talk to a trusted registered dietitian and/or physician prior to taking anything (and notice I didn't say personal trainer, fitness influencer, sister that is into nutrition...) Is the supplement safe for me to use? This is the most important one (and one that many people don't know!)... Many of the supplements that you see at your local Target may not be safe to use. Why? Because there is no regulation on supplements before they hit the shelf. (Peep the next question for more information) Is the supplement third party tested? Third party testing (and be careful with this because many brands claim they're "third party tested" and actually aren't) is a quality assurance check. Different companies do different testing. Some reputable third party testing agencies are below. Look for these: USP: The quality mark demonstrates that the product contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts and does not contain harmful levels of specified substances (ie. leads, mercury). *Does not test for banned substances so not a good choice for NCAA athletes. Informed Choice: The quality mark demonstrates to athletes that a blind monthly sampling has been completed and at least one lot/batch of the product has been tested at random for more than 250 substances prohibited in sport and that the product was made in an environment with quality systems appropriate for the stringent demands of sports nutrition manufacturing. Informed Sport: The quality mark demonstrates to athletes that every batch of a product has been tested for more than 250 substances prohibited in sport and that the product was made in an environment with quality systems appropriate for the stringent demands of sports nutrition manufacturing. NSF Certified for Sport: The quality mark demonstrates products do not contain any of 280 substances banned by major athletic organizations and the contents of the supplement actually match what is printed on the label. They also ensure there are no unsafe levels of contaminants in the tested products. Is the supplement really worth the money? Hate to break it to you but maybe not (cough cough, BCAA's...) All of this is to say: Talk to a trusted registered dietitian before spending your money on a supplement (this could mean anything from vitamin D to protein powder).

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