When it comes to supplements used in College sports, things can get a little sensitive and problematic. What your school can happily offer and what is forbidden is not always as clear cut as we might like. So how do you settle for appropriate products and peace of mind? The line between authorised use and a big fat sanction for ingesting something with an impermissible element in it is rather a fine one. I hope this article helps provide some clarity on the topic by identifying the Five W’s and answering them for you.

Who?

This can be broken into two parts: Who are YOU and what BRAND can you trust?

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If you’re a High School athlete, you are not regulated in the same ways as in College athletics. So although I would still not advocate taking any supplements in High School, I would suggest that a multivitamin and protein powder is fine.

The multivitamin will serve a valuable purpose of supplying minerals and vitamins that may not be getting into your system through the School meal diet. The protein powder helps to maintain and build lean muscle mass. There is every chance you are on a weight training program at your school and a protein shake after a workout is an ideal aid to help muscles recover.

It is when you are in College that things might get interesting. Crucially you need to be aware of the list of approved and banned ingredients (these can be found on the NCAA.org website and searching for dietary supplements).

While your school can only give you certain products to fit the guidelines of the NCAA, you can use products outside of what they offer you (which I personally wouldn’t recommend unless you know the ins and outs of the rules and regulations with supplements). A brand I used when in college was MET-Rx. It’s a brand that has been around for many years and has a great selection of compliant products.

Amongst its compliant products are: two nutritional shakes, a calorie replacement bar and over 15 flavours of Balance Bars which is great coverage for your supplement needs.

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What?

So what do you need the supplement for? Are you looking for faster recovery between matches? Do you want to recover faster between workouts to prepare for more the next day? Do you wish to prevent your lean muscle mass from being broken down by your strenuous workouts/games?

Or perhaps it is a case of trying to make up for deficiencies in your diet during what might be busy days. There are products to fit all of these needs.

Where?

So where can you get products that will be compliant in the College environment? In terms of pricing and securing great value, online is likely to be the best bet. There are numerous sites with all the items you need that meet the Collegiate guidelines.

You can also find products at your sports nutrition stores but be careful to ensure they meet the NCAA rules and regulations regarding supplements.

When?

In terms of taking supplements, timing is everything. Here is a quick breakdown on when to take certain products…

Pre-workout/game: The best thing to take during this time are carbohydrates either in a liquid or solid form (a shake or bar are fine if you can’t take in a whole food source).Between workouts or games: You need to to maintain hydration during this time.

Water is therefore critical during this period. Other than water, taking in a product that has electrolytes/sodium/potassium is ideal. Liquid form is the best choice for this instance since liquids are absorbed and utilized by the body must faster than taking in a whole food source.

Post workout/game: Timing here is critical to help your body recover fully and efficiently. Again liquid will be absorbed much faster and will allow the body to absorb the nutrients it needs to recover. It is very important to consume your post workout supplements within 45 minutes of ending your exertion.

Anytime: This is not a free pass to use something whenever you fancy it. “Anytime” means these products can be used as and when you cannot take on board a whole food meal. For instance a Balance Bar could be used in the middle of the afternoon between your lunch and dinner to help you meet your daily needs. Ingest something prior to a workout so you aren’t hitting the gym while running on empty.

It’s never wise to attempt a meaningful workout when devoid of sustenance and decent nutrition. It could be likened to a high performance car trying to make it through a race with barely any gas in the tank.

Why?

This is pretty much covered in previous sections but just to recap – sports nutrition products (supplements/ergogenic aids) can be highly beneficial if used correctly. But don’t buy something just because the marketing tells you its the latest and greatest. Often the products you’ll see on the magazine pages don’t even apply to you and what you’re trying to accomplish.

The only products you should be interested in are multivitamins, protein/carb blends (in the form of a shake/bar), and recovery products that contain electrolytes/sodium/potassium such as coconut water which is a natural source of all those.

Hopefully this has helped to shine some light on the topic of supplements in College athletics. So always train hard, train smart and finish strong!

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