When swimmer Jessica Hardy set two world records in 2008 and was getting ready to compete in the Olympics in Beijing, she had no idea her world was about to come crashing down. She tested positive for a banned substance right before the Olympics.
Turns out she had taken adulterated supplements that contained the banned substance, undisclosed by the supplement company. Because she was able to prove the supplement she took contained the substance, her suspension was reduced to one year instead of two. Still, she missed the Beijing Olympics.
Given the danger of adulteration, why would ANYONE risk taking supplements? In the United States the supplement industry is only lightly regulated so companies are free to make all sorts of outlandish claims about their products. My personal feeling is that people are so desperate for a “quick fix” they’re susceptible to too-good-to-be-true product claims for weight loss and other problems.
A report was recently published in JAMA about adulterated supplements. Turns out almost 800 supplements have been found to have drugs in them, including sildenafil (Viagra), sibutramine (Meridia) and anabolic steroids. The adulterated supplements are most often marketed for – unsurprisingly – sexual enhancement, weight loss and muscle building. You can access the database yourself here at the FDA website.
Whether you’re an Olympic swimmer like Jessica Hardy, a world-class wrestler like Narsingh Yadav or Vinod Kumar, or a runner looking to PR your next half marathon, SHOULD you use nutritional supplements? Which ones should you choose?
If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you probably know my answers to these questions 😉 Good nutrition improves athletic performance, that much is very clear. And supplements are an efficient way to make sure the body’s nutritional needs (for vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein) are optimally met.
So given this information, taking supplements make sense. But before choosing a nutritional supplement, you have to ask yourself some questions. If you have access to a representative for the company (especially if it’s a direct sales company) here are some good questions to get answered.
- Does the company sponsor Olympic athletes? How many medals have the sponsored athletes won? If there are no Olympic athletes, do they sponsor athletes competing in “clean” events – i.e. subject to drug testing? If not, steer clear. Many sports supplements have disclaimers in the product literature stating they are not meant for athletes subject to drug testing. Don’t take those!
- What research has been done with the company’s products? Ask to see the publications. Are they peer reviewed? You can search in the NIH’s research database to see if it’s a “legit” research article or not.
- What are the company’s quality procedures? Is there a money-back guarantee? How are recalls handled? Who do you call with a problem?
Ultimately, with supplements the reality in the United States is “let the buyer beware.” Customers are responsible for doing their own research because the industry isn’t well regulated. If the product is advertised to produce results that seem too good to be true, they probably are. Do NOT buy products advertised to improve sexual performance. No supplement has ever been shown effective for that problem – only pharmaceuticals work.
If you aren’t aware of the company I chose to partner with, I have easy and transparent answers to these questions.
- Yes, Shaklee sponsors Olympic athletes. We have nearly 100 athletes and a total of 144 medals to our team’s credit. That’s a lot of hard work (and a lot of supplements)! Learn more about the Shaklee Pure Performance Team at this link. No athlete ever has, or ever will, fail a drug test due to a Shaklee product.
- Over 100 publications is a LOT of science to Shaklee’s credit. Published in respected journals like Nutrition, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, and Journal of Gastroenterology. You can check out research Shaklee has sponsored about athletic performance, weight management, blood sugar support and other topics at this link.
- Every lot of raw materials is tested for 350 different contaminants like pesticides, molds, heavy metals and other toxins before it is accepted to make Shaklee products. Shaklee is BETTER than organic, since organic products can still become contaminated in many ways. In addition, over 100,000 quality tests are done every year on finished products before they head out to customers. Shaklee has never had a recall. They don’t need to! And if you have a problem, everything is guaranteed, even if you just don’t like a flavor. You call me, or your distributor if it’s not me, and it gets fixed. Period.
Again and again, we see in the news reports that supplements aren’t safe, that supplements don’t work, that supplements are at best a waste of money or at worst dangerous to your health. This isn’t true. Nutritional supplements are a vital part of supporting health and optimizing outcomes for athletes as well as for the rest of us. It’s just important to make sure you know what you’re buying!
QUESTION: Do you take supplements? Why or why not? Is this information surprising to you?