The use of nutritional supplements in athletes and in the health-conscious recreationally active population is widespread, as it is in the general population. A very large number of surveys have been published. A meta-analysis of 51 published surveys involving 10274 male and female athletes of varying levels of ability showed an overall prevalence of supplement use of 46%, but the prevalence varied widely in different sports, at different levels of age, performance etc., and in different cultural backgrounds.
Many different supplements are used by athletes with the aim of improving or maintaining general health and exercise performance. In particular, supplement use is often aimed at promoting tissue growth and repair, promoting fat loss, enhancing resistance to fatigue, and stimulating immune function. Most of the supplements that are sold to athletes have not been well researched, and both safety and efficacy remain open to question for many of these products. Anyone seeking to improve health or performance would be better advised to ensure that they consume a sound diet that meets energy needs and contains a variety of foods. A recent development of concern to athletes is the finding of various prohibited doping agents in what should be legitimate sports nutrition products. Supplements for which there is good evidence of beneficial effects on performance include caffeine, creatine, and bicarbonate, but the risk of an inadvertent positive doping result must always be considered.
See also: Anemia: Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Bone. Carbohydrates: Chemistry and Classification; Regulation of Metabolism; Requirements and Dietary Importance; Resistant Starch and Oligosaccharides. Electrolytes: Acid-Base Balance; Water-Electrolyte Balance. Energy: Balance. Exercise: Beneficial Effects; Diet and Exercise. Fats and Oils. Fatty Acids: Metabolism; Monounsaturated; Omega-3 Polyunsaturated; Omega-6 Polyunsaturated; Saturated; Trans Fatty Acids. Protein: Synthesis and Turnover; Requirements and Role in Diet; Digestion and Bioavailability; Quality and Sources. Supplementation: Role of Micronutrient Supplementation; Developing Countries.
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