In the world of athletics, the goals of becoming bigger, stronger, faster, slimmer, or more energized never cease to occur. To obtain and retain these goals, commitment to a strict exercise and nutrition plan is required. However, after months of grueling training it’s easy to give up hope and reach for a magic pill. Buyer beware, dietary supplements that make such claims to help athletes reach their peak performance do not have to show effectiveness or safety before they hit store shelves.


To better understand if those sport supplements that you spend hundreds of dollars on are really making a difference, one needs to learn what the research has to say:

Beta-Alanine: Acts as a buffer in the muscle Claim: Improve high-intensity exercise performance Evidence: Insufficient evident to rate effective. Dietary source: Lean red meat, fish and poultry  

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA): Leucine, isoleucine and valine Claim: Delay fatigue, boost the immune system Evidence: Can provide fuel for endurance activity, but has not been shown to delay fatigue. Dietary source: Milk (whey), lean red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, chickpeas, lentils and whole wheat  

Caffeine: Central nervous system stimulant Claim: Help burn fat, protect carbohydrate stores, and improve energy Evidence: Increases alertness but does not appear to increase fat burning or protect carbohydrate stores during exercise. Dietary source: Cocoa beans, coffee, tea leaves and kola nuts  

Carnitine: Found in muscles and used for energy production Claim: Helps to burn fat Evidence: Does not increase fat burning Dietary source: Lean red meat, fish, poultry, and milk (whey)  

Creatine: Found in muscles and used for energy production Claim: Increase lean body mass, strength and improve exercise performance (high-intensity) Evidence: Positive results for increasing total body mass, lean mass, increased strength gains, and recovery. Dietary source: Wild game, lean red meat and fish  

Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT): Fatty Acids Claim: Increase endurance; promotes fat burning Evidence: Does not enhance endurance performance or weight loss Dietary source: Coconut and palm kernel oil  

Supplement and health stores are full of products that promise amazing results, as presented here, are a few examples of the claims versus scientific research of popular supplements. So, before you reach for the magic pill, think about the magic that happens when you consume a balanced diet while being physically active.


Supplements and Ergogenic Aids for Athletes by: Sharon Denny, MS, RDN —