Getting a supplemental education

The truth behind athlete nutrition.

8617467644_a71932873dIn 1992, Concerned Children’s Advertisers broadcasted a commercial with the simple message ‘Don’t you put it in your mouth’. Over two decades later, that message has taken on a whole new meaning for athletes across all sports who are taking supplements.

“Knowledge is everything when you’re putting something into your body,” commented local bodybuilder Nicolas Harquail. Supplements have existed for many centuries, but have gained notoriety in the past few decades as athletes in all sports push themselves to be harder, better, faster, and stronger.

The rise in supplement use over the past few decades has had a dark side. As athlete’s demands for training become more rigorous and complex, they are searching high and low for the product that will help to put them over the top. A large part of the detestation for supplement use stems from the amount of information available on the topic. Harquail is sponsored by Canadian sports nutrition company Popeye’s and uses his studies in Biology at Mt. A to educate himself on the topic.

“I always got quite a bit of negative feedback for using supplements from people that aren’t involved in the sport and it’s simply because it’s unknown,” noted Harquil. Information on the topic comes through so many mediums including but not limited to: suppliers, health awareness organizations, and the Internet.

One of the organizations in Canada that deals directly with education on the issue is the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES). In an interview last week, their President and CEO, Paul Melia, talked about the CCES’s reasoning for being concerned about supplement use. “Where our concern stems from is number one that most of the athletes are doing this on their own without the guidance of a dietician or sport nutritionist so they’re really just going on information they get in the gym’s or online.” He also discussed the risks of ordering over the Internet or from mysterious suppliers, who can spike the products with banned substances. Melia also referenced the use of strict liability, which places the responsibility of the person (in this case the athlete) for what they put in their body.

The CCES provides product education to a wide variety of athletes. They currently provide educational resources to all Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) athletes, junior hockey players in the Canadian Hockey League, as well as high performance athletes that have competed at the Pan-American Games, Olympics, and Paralympics.

For Quinn Everett, a defensive lineman for the Mount Allison Mounties, taking his supplements has become a way of life. “I definitely plan my day around working out and supplements to get the full potential out of them,” he commented. Everett also added that he has a schedule at home that helps him plan out when to take his supplements for them to be most effective. In some cases, that has involved him taking pills or mixing nutritional shakes in class, which has prompted several weird looks from his classmates.

Harquail stressed that the use of supplements aren’t for everyone. “Unless your diet is perfect or unless your watching everything you put in your body supplementation will have very minimal effects,” he said before adding, “[Supplements] might be responsible for five per cent of my gains.”

Although the penalties for using a banned substance are harsh, the CCES is looking to provide athletes with the necessary education in order to protect them. They have recently initiated plans to reach out to athletes at a younger age in order to establish their knowledge. In the meantime, Melia referenced the National Science Foundation as a resource for finding reputable nutritional supplement suppliers.

Despite all the misinformation, to athletes like Everett, there’s only one thing that matters. “It’s all about finding the right one that your body reacts to.”

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