Practical Issues in Evidence-Based Use of Performance Supplements: Supplement Interactions, Repeated Use and Individual Responses


March 2017



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Current sports nutrition guidelines recommend that athletes only take supplements following an evidence-based analysis of their value in supporting training outcomes or competition performance in their specific event. While there is sound evidence to support the use of a few performance supplements under specific scenarios (creatine, beta-alanine, bicarbonate, caffeine, nitrate/beetroot juice and, perhaps, phosphate), there is a lack of information around several issues needed to guide the practical use of these products in competitive sport. First, there is limited knowledge around the strategy of combining the intake of several products in events in which performance benefits are seen with each product in isolation. The range in findings from studies involving combined use of different combinations of two supplements makes it difficult to derive a general conclusion, with both the limitations of individual studies and the type of sporting event to which the supplements are applied influencing the potential for additive, neutral or counteractive outcomes. The repeated use of the same supplement in sports involving two or more events within a 24-h period is of additional interest, but has received even less attention. Finally, the potential for individual athletes to respond differently, in direction and magnitude, to the use of a supplement seems real, but is hard to distinguish from normal day to day variability in performance. Strategies that can be used in research or practice to identify whether individual differences are robust include repeat trials, and the collection of data on physiological or genetic mechanisms underpinning outcomes.

Sports Med (2017) 47(Suppl 1): 79-100

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