Tom Kennedy interviewed me for this article last year. Enjoy the read.
The sports supplement industry is a steadily growing machine fueled mainly by advertising in specialist weightlifting and bodybuilding magazines.
According to the Nutrition Business Journal, in the United States alone, the dietary supplement industry is worth $23.7-billion.
The industry consists of products such as protein powders, amino acids, creatine, nitric acid, glutamine and even human growth hormone but what do they actually do and are they really necessary?
Brantford’s Krista DuChene is a registered dietitian and elite athlete who follows an impressive creed of “I practise what I preach.”
DuChene is a good candidate to discuss the topic as she not only knows the science of nutrition but has the athletic experience to back up what she says.
She works with local dietitian agency, Therapy Specialties, has been a registered dietitian for seven years and is an active elite marathon runner and says healthy living is about sticking to the basics.
“The food guide gives us what we need - grain products, milk products, vegetables and fruit, meat and alternatives,” she said.
DuChene is currently ranked eighth in Canada for marathon running, having recently won the Mississauga marathon with a time of 2:51:38 and placing second in the Toronto Ten Miler with a time of 60:07.
Currently, she is training for the Toronto Marathon and endures a four-month training program which includes bike rides, swimming, runs ranging from 15-40 kilometres, pilates/core work, light weights for strength and stretching for flexibility.
Whether training and fuelling her own body or giving advice to her patients, DuChene recommends a very simple and inexpensive recovery drink and warns against supplements with “bells and whistles.”
“The best recovery drink is chocolate milk, it has the right balance,” she said. “When it comes to protein powder and bars there can be too much of certain things such as calories, caffeine, salt and sugar when really everything can be obtained through the food groups and a healthy diet.”
Dietitians of Canada and the American Dietetic Association released a joint position paper in 2008 supports DuChene’s attitudes towards the “bells and whistles” of the steadily growing supplement industry.
In the paper, Nutrition and Athletic Performance the organizations wrote "… recommended protein intakes can generally be met through diet alone, without the use of protein or amino acid supplements.”
The most common supplement products are protein powders and amino acids that are said to help with the repair and growth of muscles.
Human growth hormone, or HGH, is a hormone that the body produces naturally to provide energy and develop and repair muscles.
There are products on the market that contain HGH but according to www.askmen.com they are not recommended due to their potential harmful qualities.
Creatine is another supplement that is frowned upon as it has been known to cause side effects such as dehydration, seizures, irregular heartbeat and cramping.
Joe Hughes, owner of Big Joe’s in Brantford, has been a competitive bodybuilder for 10 years and has been in the business of selling supplements for a little more than two years.
In his opinion, supplements are beneficial for anyone working out even as little as three times a week.
While Hughes agrees with DuChene, in that protein and other nutrients can be found in the food groups, he doesn’t believe that is the right approach.
“I would agree that food has everything in it but there’s certain things you need abundances of and if you just get them from food, you’re also going to get a lot of carbohydrates and other things you don’t want.”
When getting into the sport, Hughes said he researched medical journals and applied a trial and error technique to discover what supplements worked well for him.
For the average Joe, he recommended talking to someone in the industry who knows what they are talking about or applying a similar method to what he did but erred on the side of caution when it comes to internet research.
So with the sports nutrition market flooded with so many products it is understandable to feel a little confused or overwhelmed - on one side of the spectrum you have dietitians who are “reluctant to recommend something to replace food.”
On the other side, you have those in the business of building muscle who use supplements to “allow faster results targeted towards a specific goal.”
(Give us your opinion : Do you think supplements are necessary when working out or recovering from strenuous physical activity? Please comment below. )