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Protein supplements for athletic performance misused and no benefit

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

University of Montreal researchers say protein supplements used by athletes are inefficient, probably misused, and do not improve performance or recovery time. The study also shows that knowledge of energy drinks, multi-vitamins, minerals and powdered protein supplements used by high level athletes and amateurs is weak.

According to Martin Fréchette, a researcher and graduate of the Université de Montréal Department of Nutrition, "The role of proteins is particularly misunderstood. Only one out of four consumers could associate a valid reason, backed by scientific literature" to justify taking protein supplements.

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Fréchette questioned 42 athletes about their use of supplements while keeping a journal of their eating habits for three days. Athletic disciplines included biathlon, cycling, long-distance running, swimming, judo, skating and volleyball. Nine out of ten athletes reported consuming energy drinks, multi-vitamins, minerals or powdered protein supplements on a regular basis. However, most said they did not think their performance would suffer if they stopped using the supplements.

"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" says Fréchette. About 70 percent said they didn't think they needed supplements, despite using them.

The findings also showed that "no less than" 81 percent of athletes already had sufficient protein intake from their diet, while levels of sodium, magnesium, niacin, folate, vitamin A and iron exceeded the acceptable norms, making athletes who use protein and other supplements more vulnerable to
vision trouble, fatigue and liver anomalies.

Protein supplements used by athletes were shown to have no benefit from the study findings and are generally misused. Harm from lack of purity is also a consideration for athletes who consume protein supplements, energy drinks and vitamins. "Sports supplements often contain other ingredients than those listed on the label. Some athletes consume prohibited drugs without knowing", warns Fréchette.