Sports nutrition and supplementation is a multibillion dollar industry that continues to expand. Be-cause of this tremendous growth, there is a need for credible scientiﬁc information concerning the various ergogenic aids currently on the market (ergogenic: a nutrient or supplement that enhances exercise or athletic performance). The popularity of magazines such as Muscle and Fitness, Testosterone.net and Planet Muscle demonstrate the high demand for information in the ﬁeld of ﬁtness. It is not uncommon for these articles to be writ-ten by someone of little or no actual training in the scientific method. As a FNC, you should never be limited by where you get your information. Even though these tertiary journals mentioned above are not a deﬁnitive source, it is still wise to maintain an awareness of what is current in the state of our industry.
What Fitness and Nutrition Professionals Need to Know About Supplements
It is difﬁcult to know who exactly you should listen to and who you should avoid as it relates to how you get your information regarding supplements. The pro athlete who is paid millions to endorse a protein shake? Or the celebrity doctor, who transmits his beliefs to an unsuspecting public, willing to believe anything.
The area of sport supplementation is dynamic, al-ways changing. If you have ever had to read a scientiﬁc journal, it is likely that you came upon the phrase ‘more study is needed in this….”. And while this is true, it takes many years to complete the kind of research work that results in a consensus. Therefore, it is prudent to move forward with what IS currently known for practical purposes and application to the client.
Why Can Supplements Be Controversial?
Well, they are not regulated in the United States by any regulating agency in terms of the claims they make. As stated in wording of the DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements as foods, and not as drugs. While pharmaceutical companies are required to obtain FDA approval proving the safety or effectiveness of their products before they enter into the market, dietary supplements, like food, do not need to be pre-approved by any part of the FDA before they can enter the market.
The DSHEA gave the FDA the express responsibility to regulate the manufacturing processes of dietary supplements, and the FDA issued its ﬁrst proposed rule in 2003. In June 2007 it issued its ﬁnal rule, which requires all dietary supplement manufacturers to ensure by June 2010 that production of dietary supplements complies with current good manufacturing practices, and be manufactured with “controls that result in a consistent product free of contamination, with accurate labeling.”
In addition, the industry is now required to report to the FDA “all serious dietary supplement related adverse events.” The new rules have been criticized, however, with skeptics arguing lack of FDA resources, loopholes, and an exception on quality assurance for raw material suppliers (with the bur-den placed on manufacturers) will lead to continued quality problems. There’s also concern that supplement manufacturers and retailers will hide behind the new regulations.(6). Prior to the rule supplements have had major quality problems, and the number of FDA investigators has declined (7).
Dietary supplements are permitted to make structure/function claims. These are broad claims that the product can support the structure or function of the body (e.g., “glucosamine helps support healthy joints”, “the hormone melatonin helps to establish normal sleep patterns”). The FDA must be notiﬁed of these claims within 30 days of their ﬁrst use, and there is a requirement that these claims be proven or substantiated. But in reality, false claims about supplements have become common, particularly due to their proliferation on poorly-regulated commercial websites
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If you are interested in this topic, look into the NESTA Fitness Nutrition Coach and Sports Nutrition Specialist programs.