Strength Performance Network

Blogging from the NSCA 2014 Coaches Conference: Which supplements are effective and which are a waste of time

Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD is currently speaking at the conference on the topic of supplements.  The most immediate learning from the presentation is that the nutrition needs for every athlete are going to be unique.  Strength and conditioning professionals are doing their athletes a disservice if we don't take the time to fully evaluate the unique needs of each athlete including their nutrition history, their goals for the future and what is truly best for the athlete. 

Marie is an expert in her field.  I won't write the details of her presentation here, but you can find more information about about Marie on her website at:  If you are an athlete looking to better understand how nutrition can play a role in helping you maximize your athletic performance, or a coach who works with athletes to do the same, I would not hesitate to seek out Marie for her knowledge and advice.

In today's presentation Marie covered a range of topics from the role strength and conditioning coaches should play in ensuring that they bring the right nutritional knowledge to their athletes, to the challenges in telling different supplements apart.  She also covered the potential pros/cons of different types of supplements (stimulants, protein, post-workout supplements) and discussed the issue of when supplements should ideally be taken to maximize their benefits.  

A few other notes from her presentation:

  • When it comes to supplements strength and conditioning coaches must make it their priority to know what is legal for their athletes to take, what is not and the difference between different types of the same supplement (I.e. Protein supplements.)  Additionally, understand what additional food, drink and prescription drugs an athlete typically takes in order to understand if supplements are ok to take and what types of supplements may be appropriate.  
  • Herein lies the challenge:  It's very difficult to understand the differences between the same types of supplements (I.e. Protein supplements).  The ingredient label on many supplements list a "proprietary blend" on the label.  This is to prevent the competition from learning all the ingredients, but it also inhibits users from understanding what is truly in the product.  Additionally, some information that is listed is not complete and is therefore potentially misleading.  For example, there is no requirements to list the amount of caffeine in each product.  
  • Antioxidants and recovery:  more isn't better
  • "Gainers" are often suspect
  • Rob Wildman, PhD, RD is a recommended resource on the science of supplements

More to come from the 2014 conference soon....

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