Martin Fréchette, a researcher and graduate at the University of Montreal’s Department of Nutrition, found 90 per cent of a range of athletes consumed energy drinks, multivitamins, minerals and powdered protein supplements, but had poor understanding of what they did and the best way to consume them.
"They are often poorly used or unnecessary by both high-level athletes and amateurs," Fréchette said of the athletes that reported using supplements on a regular basis.
"The role of proteins is particularly misunderstood," Fréchette said, noting studies that have shown 12 to 20 percent of products regularly used by athletes contain prohibited substances. "Only one out of four consumers could associate a valid reason, backed by scientific literature, for taking the product according."
The PhD student reported that the supplements taken rarely delivered performance-enhancing benefits and could be contaminated with unauthorized pharma substances and other ingredients.
"Their purity and preparation aren't as controlled as prescription medication," he said. "Sports supplements often contain other ingredients than those listed on the label. Some athletes consume prohibited drugs without knowing."
He found supplement usage increased the better someone’s diet was.
"More than 66 percent of those who believed to have bad eating habits took supplements. For those who claimed to have 'good' or 'very good' eating habits that number climbs to 90 percent."
But this was not necessarily good. "No less than 81 percent of athletes taking supplements already had sufficient protein from their diet. The use of multivitamins and minerals can make up for an insufficient intake of calcium, folate yet not for lack of potassium.
“What's more, consumers of supplements had levels of sodium, magnesium, niacin, folate, vitamin A and iron that exceeded the acceptable norms. This makes them susceptible to health problems such as nausea, vision trouble, fatigue and liver anomalies.”