Nutraceuticals in sports nutrition

img_nutraceuticals_sportsThe link between diet and health continues to grow, and researchers have begun looking at the benefits of certain foods that may provide beyond their nutritional value. For the last few years, a growing interest is developed in nutraceuticals.

Nutraceuticals are the products isolated from the foods and sold in medicinal form to help in prevention or treatment of disease, such as omega-3-fatty acid, phyto-estrogens, probiotics and prebiotics, luteins, psyllium etc.

Nutraceutical word with “nutra” derived from nutrition and “ceutical” from pharmaceutical refers to substances that may be considered a food or part of food and may provide medical and health benefits.

1. Substances with established nutritional functions such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids.
2. Herbs or botanical products as concentrate and extract herbals.
3. Reagents derived from other sources (e.g. pyruvate, chondroitin sulphate, steroid hormone precursors) used for specific function as sports nutrition, weight loss supplement, and meal replacement dietary supplements.

The use of dietary supplements is widespread in sports fraternity. Recent reports show that between 70 and 100% of all athletes use dietary supplements. All levels of athletes engaged in supplements use more frequently during training phase, however athletes competing at the international/ national level reported using supplements most frequently during both training (98.3%) and competition (87.1%). In India too, 80 to 90% of elite athletes consume dietary supplements. The Dietary supplements used most commonly were vitamins, and antioxidants (84%), minerals (73%), protein & creatine supplement (53%) and ergogenic supplements(including coenzyme Q10, caffeine, ginseng (52%).

Athletes look for supplements for many reasons:
• Promoting adaptation to training
• Losing body fat and building muscles
• Increasing energy supply
• Allowing more consistent and intensive training by promoting recovery between training sessions
• Enhancing competitive performance

Like drugs, dietary supplements too have risks and side effects. They can usually be used safely within certain dosage guidelines.

But, unlike drugs, dietary supplements are mostly self-prescribed with no input from informed medical sources like doctors, dietitians, or pharmacists. All players should look carefully at the risks and rewards of individual supplement before trying them. Many players ignore the need for caution in supplement use and take supplements in doses that are not necessary, and may even be harmful. There’s a lot of wrong information out there. Even for those who are usually well informed, it can be hard to find reliable information about the safe use and potential risks of dietary supplements.



A plethora of Dietary supplements is marketed for athletes and physically active individuals as a mean to enhance performance. Advances in nutritional biochemistry and biotechnology have permitted the mass production of all nutrients essential to human metabolism. Total global consumer spending on dietary supplements for sport and health reasons is estimated at $187 billion and rising with 6-7% per annum. According to an industry estimate, the current nutraceutical market in India is about Rs.1600 crore with an annual growth rate of 25%. Few of the products used by the athletes are supported by sound research base and some may even be harmful to the players. One should keep in mind that a great deal of what you hear or read about dietary supplements is based on anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is based on people’s (even doctors’) personal experiences or opinions rather than objective, controlled research studies. Be skeptical of sources that make grand claims based on a few people’s testimonials or vague references to “scientific proof.” The rule “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” usually applies to such claims. Keep in mind that the makers and sellers of supplements have a financial interest in promoting their products.

Players who are liable for drug testing under national & international programs should especially be cautious about using any supplement. Contamination of diet with substances that may cause a player to fail a doping test is wide spread. Some surveys have suggested that as many as one in four supplements may result in positive test.

Players must be aware of strict liability principle that makes them responsible for everything they eat and drink. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for a positive doping result.

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