Articles

Dr David Hughes talks about nutrition and supplements in sport

October 3, 2019


If an athlete is in the habit from a very
early age of taking vitamins and supplements because
they absolutely believe that they need it for performance
then they have already created a potential weakness for themselves
because the moment they can’t access those, they have a self-belief that they can’t
perform. And the truth of the matter is
that it is probably making no difference to their physiological performance
and it’s really a placebo effect that they are getting
in many cases and they are really wasting their money
and athletes would really do far better just to educate themselves
about what is an appropriate time to take supplements and what isn’t
and in my opinion they can only do that in conjunction
with a properly qualified professional like a sports nutritionist or a sports doctor
who can advise them appropriately. The supplements industry is largely unregulated
and the growth of the use of supplements in the high performance sports sector
and across the Australian community in general, is really in my opinion, a victory for marketing
over science. The far majority of supplements that are on
the market have no scientific basis to support their
use. There are some that have a place in sport
because there is good evidence that they work in specific
situations but there are some of Australia’s very top
athletes who take no supplements at all and actually
pride themselves on the fact that they train hard, they practice
good nutrition, they get good sleep and that is the basis
for their good performance and they don’t feel any need whatsoever
to take supplements. I think there is a perception in the general
community that all high performance athletes take supplements
and that is simply not true. There are many of our very top athletes
who do not take supplements and can still put in a top performance
and a world class performance without taking supplements. There is very little evidence behind taking
multi-vitamins, certainly there is no evidence that taking
multi-vitamins is of any benefit whatsoever in someone who
has a healthy Western diet. There are some vitamins that are useful
when people are unwell or if they have a particular medical condition
but generally speaking taking multi-vitamins, if you have a good diet,
it does nothing for you except give you expensive urine. Well we have already talked about the fact that not all athletes need to take
supplements even at the very top level of Australian sport
not all athletes take supplements, some of our greatest athletes get by on good
nutrition, good training and good sleep patterns
and I think when we start talking about young people,
and I think that you mentioned before someone who was 16 years old,
in my opinion that the indications for someone of school age taking supplements is that
it is very, very rare that a school age person
would be need to take supplements and I don’t think any person of school age
should take supplements unless they have consulted a very highly skilled
sports nutritionist or sports doctor and outlined exactly what
their sporting requirements are and why they feel the need to take these supplements. There can be negatives from taking supplements
and vitamins. You can take things to excess
and apart from the potential negative side-effects from ingredients
that may not be on the labels there is the issue of the culture
and the learning’s that an athlete takes from that sort of behaviour.
Athletes with a lot of self-confidence feel confident that they can train hard;
they feel confident that they can eat well; they feel confident that they can have good
sleep habits. If an athlete is taught from a very young
age that they need to take something, they need to pop a pill, they need to take
a special juice, they need to take some sort of a powder, then that’s very formative and that’s probably going to affect how they operate
for the remainder of their athletic career and we know that many, many athletes don’t
need to take anything at all as long as they have a good diet and a good
diet is really the foundation of good performance. There are some really good resources out there
and anyone can just in their web browser type in AIS supplements
and that will take them to the AIS website and that will give them a lot of information
about supplements and if it is a medication they can go to the ASADA website
and the check-your-substances page which allow them to type in your medication
and see what the status of that medication is in relation to sport
and if there is any doubts or any questions then they should really seek the advice
of a professional who can give them further guidance about whether to take that medication
or supplement. ENDS

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