Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: No Need to Supplement What You Don’t Need (Sports Med Res)
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

No Need to Supplement What You Don’t Need

Dietary Intakes and Supplement Use in Pre-Adolescent and Adolescent Canadian Athletes

Parnell JA, Wiens KP, & Erdman KA.  Nutrients. 2016; 8(9), 526. doi: 10.3390/nu8090526

Take Home Message: Dietary intake in young athletes seem to meet most recommendations, therefore supplementing may only be necessary for a few select micronutrients based on age and gender. 

Athletes face obstacles such as travel, energy needs, and time demands when trying to eat healthy. Establishing healthy nutritional intakes as a younger athlete is very important for founding healthy long-term behaviors.  Therefore, these authors investigated the dietary and supplement intake of 168 young pre-adolescent and adolescent Canadian athletes (ages 11-18 years).  Athletes and/or their parents/guardians completed two questionnaires regarding their dietary and supplemental intakes over the previous 24 hours.  Females were more likely to report trying to lose weight (8% ages 11-14 & 15% ages 14-18) compared with males (4% ages 11-14 & 0% ages 14-18).  While males were more likely to report trying to gain weight (15% ages 11-14 & 42% ages 14-18) than females (3% of younger females 11-14 years).  Younger males consumed more carbohydrate and protein compared with older males and females based on body weight (excludes protein supplements).  Athletes consumed most micronutrients at appropriate levels, with the exception of vitamin D and potassium.  Some athletes consumed low amounts of folate (14-18 year-old females) and vitamin A (females 11-13 years old and 14-18 year-old males). Furthermore, female athletes failed to consume enough calcium, and the older female athletes did not consume enough iron. A majority of athletes consumed excessive sodium.  Every athlete reported some form of supplement use over the past 3 months, with the most commonly reported regularly used supplement being a vitamin/mineral, sport bars, and protein powders.      

The findings of this study are interesting because it shows that most athletes are consuming appropriate levels for energy demands, with only a few micronutrients lacking.  All athletes reported some supplementation; however, it may be relatively unnecessary given their dietary intake except in a few instances (e.g., vitamin D, iron or calcium in females).  It would be interesting to see what their intake in areas, such as protein, was if the authors included supplement intake since protein powders was a commonly used product.  It was also interesting to see that females were generally more concerned with losing weight, while males were more likely to desire to gain weight.  Athletes are susceptible to disordered eating, so it would have been interesting to see if the athletes’ perceptions of weight gain/loss aligned appropriately with their current body mass state.  This study adds a broad perspective on multiple sports, however, there are certain sports that are more susceptible to disordered eating and could be investigated separately.  This may help clinicians target education or other interventions. The findings of this study ultimately inform us as clinicians that supplementation seems largely unnecessary – and we can educate the athletes that we work with about their dietary and supplement intake. 

Questions for Discussion:  What have your experiences been with consulting athletes regarding nutrition or supplement intake?  What strategies do you think work best when trying to work with an athlete on their nutritional goals?

Written by: Nicole Cattano
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

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Parnell, J., Wiens, K., & Erdman, K. (2016). Dietary Intakes and Supplement Use in Pre-Adolescent and Adolescent Canadian Athletes Nutrients, 8 (9) DOI: 10.3390/nu8090526

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