Risks, benefits of dietary supplements for exercise, athletic performance

As the pursuit of fitness and a healthy lifestyle becomes increasingly popular among athletes and non-athletes in Ghana, more and more people are turning to dietary supplements to help them reach their fitness goals. 

There are different kinds of dietary supplements, and these promise everything from more muscle mass to better endurance, especially for sports personalities and fitness enthusiasts.

However, with so many options available, it has become difficult to know which supplements are safe, effective or just an advertising gimmick to make money and which ones pose a risk to your health.

In this article, we will explore the potential benefits and risks of sports dietary supplements, helping you make an informed decision about whether they are right for you or not.

So whether you are a seasoned athlete or just starting out on your fitness journey, read on to learn more about this important topic.

What are dietary sports supplements?

Dietary supplements are products that are designed to help athletes perform better, speed up muscle recovery, and improve health and wellness in general for athletes and non-athletes.

There are different kinds of dietary supplements, which comes in all shapes and forms, from powders to capsules, pills, and liquids. Some of the most popular types of dietary sports supplements include protein powder, creatine, and caffeine.

When these dietary sports supplements are combined effectively with a guided diet and exercise regime, which are essential components of a healthy lifestyle, it could help enhance physical performance and aid in the achievement of fitness goals.

However, like any other supplement, there are benefits and risks to consider before incorporating them into your daily routine.

Benefits of dietary sports supplements

Increased muscle mass and faster recovery: Many supplements, such as creatine and protein powders are designed to help increase muscle mass and strength.

These supplements can be especially useful for athletes and bodybuilders who are looking to build lean muscle and to improve their performance.

Supplements such as glutamine and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) can help speed up recovery after a workout by reducing muscle soreness and promoting muscle repair.

This is even better when it is combined with the intake of protein-rich foods.

Eating protein-rich foods at every meal and for snacks may help lessen muscle loss following an injury.

Protein-rich foods may also help you regain muscle mass faster once you return to training.

Improved endurance and general health: Supplements containing caffeine and beta-alanine are designed to help improve endurance and to delay fatigue during exercise.

These supplements can be particularly helpful for endurance athletes, such as middle-and long-distance runners and cyclists.

Supplements containing vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C and Omega-3 are good for health and well-being in general.

Supplements rich in Vitamin C, for instance, can help your body produce the building materials called collagen.

This collagen is required by the body to rebuild tissue after an injury. Vitamin C may also help prevent excessive inflammation, which is usually responsible for slowing down recovery in both athletes and non-athletes.

Also, supplements rich in Omega-3 can improve heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain function and development.

It has been proven to improve cognitive function, memory, and mood.

Risks of dietary sports supplements

Despite all these positives, there may be some dangers associated with the intake of some sports dietary supplements.

Some supplements on the market may have been evaded or not tested for certification by the Ghana Standard Authority and the Food and Drugs Authority, which means that we may not know enough about their safety and effectiveness.

Some of these products may make false claims just for making a profit, while in truth those supplements do not contain any beneficial nutrients.

This means that it can be difficult to know exactly what you are getting when you buy these supplements.

An individual is at risk of contamination, especially those that do not have adequate labeling information.

Another risk associated with supplements is the potential adverse side effects if consumed without a prescription.

Some supplements can cause nausea, diarrhea, and headaches, while others can cause more serious health problems such as liver or kidney damage.

It is important to be aware of the potential risks before starting any new supplement regimen.

Talk to your doctor or dietician about this if you have any doubts.

Importance of proper use and dosage

When it comes to dietary sports supplements, proper use and dosage are crucial.

Taking too much of a supplement can lead to adverse effects, while taking too little may not provide the desired benefits.

It is essential to carefully read the labels and follow the recommended dosages.

Additionally, it is crucial to purchase supplements from reputable sources.

Low-quality supplements may contain harmful substances or ineffective ingredients, which can be detrimental to health or lead to wasted money.

Dietary sports supplements can provide numerous benefits to those looking to improve their athletic performance and to achieve fitness goals.

However, it is essential to consider the potential risks associated with the purchase and use of these supplements, especially from reputable sources.

Ultimately, a balanced diet and exercise routine are the most critical components of a healthy lifestyle, and supplements should be used to enhance, not replace these foundational practices.

Regular exercise can help improve cardiovascular health, increase muscle mass and strength, and improve overall mental and physical well-being.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins (chicken breasts, eggs, and salmon), and whole grains (brown rice, wheat, millet, oats) can provide the nutrients your body needs to function at its best. By taking the necessary precautions and using supplements correctly in combination with diet and exercise, individuals can safely and effectively improve their physical performance and overall health.

Consult a clinician (dietitian), if in doubt, for your safe and proper dietary sports regime before, during, and after your exercises or competition.

The writers Beni Bele Bese Agbontor (Beniagbontor95@gmail.com ) and Dr Frank Ekow Atta Hayford (feahayford@ug.edu.gh) are with the Department of Dietetics, School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana.