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Sports Supplements: What to Consider

We recently received a question about the upcoming Conner Mcgregor vs Floyd Mayweather fight and more specifically about the usage of banned substances and what it might do to the flight date.

While we cannot say what the sports federations will do, it highlights an interesting discussion on what to look for when purchasing a sports recovery supplement or an injury and recovery supplement in general. There are so many supplements out there claiming so many things and some, unfortunately, containing either nothing of what the state or worse other ingredients that could potentially harm you or get you into trouble with sporting authorities.

So let’s talk about the different types of sporting needs and the available recovery supplements and how to find them.

I recently visited one of New York City’s Triathlon events and was able to speak with many participants and vendors alike. One of the common trends seen at the event was the proliferation of energy-based products meant to give a time-released boost of energy and focus to competitors. Some work faster than others, but their ultimate goal is to provide a timed boost for the most difficult, intense, or most active portion of the activity.

In speaking with the vendors and participants, you come to find who people generally use and expect terminology to be used depending on the sporting type they are engaged in. For example, the word “recovery” can mean a lot of different things and change based upon the type of activity.

In endurance sports such as marathons, triathlons, rowing, running, biking, soccer, and the Iron Man, Spartan races, etc.; recovery is all about energy replacement and fatigue and injury recovery between competitions. For these athletes, it'll about maintaining the energy level (sugar, glucose, carbohydrates, etc.) during the competition and then healing the body in between competitions to prepare for the next one.

For endurance-based activities, supplement products of all sorts claim to provide boosts of energy at the right time with little effort or food required in the stomach. From gels to juices, powders, and energy bars, there are many forms and options. One item I found particularly cool, was a product called XrCel. In speaking with the VP of Sales, I learned about their 7-year development process, clinical trials, patent process, and the inner workings of their product.

From their website1, XrCel is “Designed and specially formulated for athletes on-the-go,...with the highest quality ingredients to give you the extra energy needed to extend your performance, and recovery properly. Naturally flavored, XRCEL products do NOT contain any banned substances, so you can train and race with confidence. Scientifically formulated and clinically tested2”. We will broach the topic of banned substances later in the post. But what makes XrCel so interesting is that it uses the PH levels of the body and body heat levels to chemically activate the substance once in the body to coincide when an athlete will most need the energy.

Other sporting categories can be broken into the High Impact and General Fitness/Weight Lifting categories. Although it’s safe to consider them separate groups, for the purpose of nutrition recovery, injury recovery, and potentially even surgery recovery (that often follows alongside these sports) the nutrient needs are closely aligned, so we will discuss them together.

Recovery for these activities primarily focuses on wound healing, in this case, “micro-tears”, bruising, and inflammation that occur with the heavy impacts of colliding athletes (with each other and their environment) or the consistent and diligent wear and tear on muscle fibers. Football, Rugby, Hockey, MMA, or even general weightlifting and fitness would be prime examples of this category.

Ultimately, these athletes will focus more on supplements that promote healing of microtears and inflammation to prepare them for the next day’s or weeks' activities. Nutrients such as amino acids (Glutamine and Arginine), proteins, anti-inflammatories (Quercetin and Bromelain), metals (Zinc, Copper, and Magnesium) are essential for this recovery and can help push the body to new levels over time.

There are too many supplement products to list and even more private-label versions of Fish oil and Vitamin C, D, E, etc… than can be counted. An athlete could spend hours putting together the desired regiment and rack up a hefty price tag piecemealing individual ingredients together for their supplement needs. Still others tout to be all-inclusive programs of powders and chemicals to improve performance and recovery time in between bouts.

In truth, there is a myriad of options and solutions, and depending on your level of activity and need for nutrients, it can become quite daunting (and expensive) trying to put together a solid nutrition plan from base ingredients right off the shelf. And to make matters worse, not all these products are what they claim to be, and not all have substances that are generally accepted or allowed for competitive sporting events.

But how do you know when the array of pills, proteins, powders, and gels contain ingredients that might run afoul of banned substances? Banned substances are those that are deemed to give an unfair advantage to one competitor over another. They come in many forms (after all there are nearly 300 officially recognized and the roughly 500 that are on the fence) and can often be unknowingly consumed by athletes with dire consequences. One example was the Simon Mensing fiasco in which he purchased an over the counter supplement containing a banned substance without his knowledge. Needless to say, no athlete wants to work and compete just to lose their end rewards on a mistake.

So what can be done? Look for the label emblems that symbolize a safe product and those that show certifications or claims against banned substances.

Some well-known companies out there include the Banned Substance Control Group (“BSCG”), GMP, and NSF.

For example, the BSCG is not only targeting those banned substances but is also “a complete quality control solution…that includes testing for more than 207 drugs banned in Olympic and professional sports and extra coverage for more than 185 prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs that have not been banned3.” Not all products require this certification to be deemed safe for competition, but it helps. Consumers who are particularly concerned can visit these websites and see what products they are have certified and event which batches/lots are certified to ensure substance avoidance.

Most products out there like the proprietary HealFast Surgery and Injury Recovery Formula work with similar services and check their banned substance lists to ensure compliance and safety for customers. While this formula would be focused on optimizing recovery between events or workouts, it is still crucial that no banned substances are used as some chemicals leave long tail trace amounts that can be scanned for and for which honest athletes should avoid. A complete list of substances to avid can be found on many of the certification program’s website and we advise all competitive athletes to complete their due diligence before commencing new supplement programs.

We hope you enjoyed this post and invite you to sign up for our newsletter and drop us some questions for post topics you would like to see answered in the future. Until then stay healthy and be safe!


General Disclaimer:

All information here is for educational purposes only and is not meant to cure, heal, diagnose nor treat. This information must not be used as a replacement for medical advice, nor can the writer take any responsibility for anyone using the information instead of consulting a healthcare professional. All serious disease needs a physician.

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