Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Food First, Supplements Second

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Make sure your supplements are NSF certifiedAfter seeing so many athletes test positive for banned substances, we all wonder how this happens. More than half of Americans use dietary supplements every day. Most athletes that test positive have no idea that the supplement which they are taking is contaminated. For example, swimmer Jessica Hardy who competed in the London Olympics (winning a gold and bronze medal) was not able to compete in the 2008 Olympics because she tested positive for clenbuterol. Clenbuterol is an asthma medication which is also known to enhance performance. She had unintentionally taken a supplement that was contaminated which resulted in a year suspension.

In 2010, 35 World Anti-Doping Agency accredited laboratories detected 4,818 findings of confirmed and suspected prohibited substances. Of these findings, 88 resulted in international federation anti-doping rule violations and 1,265 resulted in national anti-doping rule violations according to the NSF International Public Health and Safety Organization. These are some pretty astounding statistics!

Athletes, do you know what’s in your supplements and how often they are being contaminated? In 2004, the International Olympic Committee funded a study that found 15% of 634 supplements tested from 13 countries contained prohibited steroids, none of which were shown on the label. Also, in 2012, 84 products such as muscle gain and energy enhancers were found to contain dangerous ingredients such as steroids, stimulants, and hormones also according to NSF International.

Whether you're a competitive athlete or an active person, make sure your supplements are NSF certified which ensures that:

  • Supplements are free of 170 prohibited substances
  • What’s on the label is in the product and nothing else
  • Safety level of ingredients
  • No unsafe levels of harmful contaminants in the product
  • Continuation of product testing

In the past four years:

  • 1 in 2 inspections by FDA have seen significant manufacturing practice violations
  • 1 in 4 inspections have resulted in a warning letter

This is the highest rate of any FDA regulated industry for non compliance, so be very careful when buying supplements. Look for the NSF symbol on labels to make sure the supplement you are taking is safe. A healthy diet is ALWAYS the best "sport supplement." Focus on FOOD FIRST! Athletes of all ages, sports, and experience are highly advised to speak with a Sports RD and/or Certified Athletic Trainer before taking any type of supplement/substance. 

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Tags: Sports Nutrition

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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