The world of football nutrition is vast before we even start to look into sports supplements and all the confusion surrounding the topic. Players (and athletes) from all over choose to add safe and legal dietary supplements to their footballers’ diet to ensure their body gets the required nutrients. However, any online search will show you the abundance of contrasting information regarding sports supplements and will probably leave you more confused than when you started. Have no fear… The PlayerScout nutritionists have compiled a brief overview of everything you need to know about sports supplements for football players.
Our Recommended List of Sports Supplements for PlayersOne quick Google search on sports supplements give you over 12,400,000 results. The majority of these offering a miracle supplement that will make you stronger, fitter or leaner. However, to make it the professional game your nutrition must be clean, this includes what you eat, drink and supplement. Remember… Sports supplements do not replace food or make up for a bad diet, they work in addition to a healthy footballers’ diet.
Which supplements do we recommend for footballers?The list of available supplements is immense, however, the few that we recommend are: BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) – The BCAA’s are made up of three essential amino, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are essential because the body is unable to make them out of other amino acids, meaning they must be ingested through food or supplements. Beetroot Juice (AKA Beet Juice) – Beetroot juice is now known as a superfood due to its many health benefits. Beta Alanine – Is a non-essential amino acid in a normal diet, however, is fast becoming essential in a footballers diet. Caffeine – Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and is one of the few legal psychoactive substances. Creatine – Creatine fuels the body during high-intensity activities. It forms part of the ATP-CP energy chain which is the body’s energy system. Fish Oil – Fish oils as a supplement are mainly Omega-3 fatty acids. Protein – It’s essential to hit your protein requirements for keeping you at peak performance for building and repairing muscles. Sodium Bicarbonate – Regulates the PH levels in our body, which drop during exercise.
Pros and Cons of Sports SupplementsBefore adding any supplements to your diet, you should understand the benefits and negative of dietary supplements. The Good… Well let’s start with the biggest benefit – Sports supplements do have a direct enhancement on your performance in matches and training. They also ensure you meet most of your nutritional goals that may be missing on a healthy diet. Again resulting in better performance. There are also psychological benefits from adding sports supplements to your footballers’ diet. This is known as the placebo effect. The Bad… The benefits of sports supplements are there for all to see, however, there are some negatives and risks associated which you should be aware of. Expense The first negative is the cost of adding supplements to your diet. Pharmaceutical companies make millions selling products to fitness fanatics and staying stocked up on supplements will soon burn a hole in your pocket each month. Side Effects Every player is different, therefore every nutrition plan should be different and individual to the player. This also relates to dietary supplements, as a lot of supplements have side effects that can affect people in a different way. Make sure you are aware of any side effects before experimenting with sports supplements. Contamination One of the biggest cons of sports supplementation is understanding whats actually in the product. The higher the level you compete in football, the more likely you are to be drug tested. Therefore it’s even more important to know exactly what you’re putting on your body. So before you take any supplements, be sure to make yourself aware of what supplements are banned by football. Download the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list of substances here. The most recent high profile case in the Premier League was in 2016 when Mamadou Sakho was alleged to have taken a banned fat burning drug. However, UEFA later dismissed the charges after a lengthy investigation. The use of banned supplements appears more in the semi-professional game, as drug test are less common. However, the risk of using the majority of these ban supplements vastly outweigh any performance benefits. So the bottom line is, eat clean and supplement (safely) if needed.
So Exactly what are Sports Supplements?Now we understand the pros and cons of adding supplements to a footballers’ diet, we will now discuss exactly what sports supplements are. The official name for a sports supplement is an Ergogenic Aid (or Nutritional Ergogenic Aid). A Nutritional Ergogenic Aids is the nutrients a player takes in the form supplements or food, to improve recovery, energy production, and energy use. These are the main areas a player should look to increase in training and matches. You should initially experiment in training with any new supplements, before taking before matches. This will allow you to assess the performance benefits and any side effects.
Are Sports Supplements Safe?When researching any supplement to add to your footballers’ diet the first thing you should find out is whether or not they are safe? Marketing and selling nutritional supplement is a huge industry, therefore companies will say anything to entice you to purchase their product over their competition. Add the fact most players buy supplements online opposed to over the counter and research becomes even more important. Here are some guidelines questions to stick to when assessing a sports supplement: Do the claims make sense? Is it supported by scientific evidence? Is it safe and legal?
Do the Supplements Marketing Claims Make SenseThe majority of sports supplements are based on theoretical observations (what performance benefits they could have in theory). In most cases, these observations are made from basic studies and very early initial studies of the supplement. Therefore these are non-conclusive results. Of course… The theory behind their claims may be accurate, however when a more in depth performance analysis is carried out on these supplements, then a series of flaws in the scientific logic often arises. So if you are serious about progressing in football you need to take nutrition seriously. This means any supplementation will involve you evaluating the literature yourself. Finding scientific studies on any new supplements and work out if the evidence is sound or not.
Is the Supplement Supported by Scientific Evidence?It is well known that companies often pay people to write fake reviews online on how amazing their product is. This is no different in the sports supplement world. Therefore you need to work out if there are solid studies to support these reviews and testimonials. When viewing the supplement studies check they have a valid list of references at the bottom. If they don’t, then most likely the claim is false and the supplement will not help you. And for the articles with references… Check the studies actually mention the nutrient you are purchasing and that the experiment was impartial. A great guideline for assessing supplement studies is to: Look for studies that have phrases like ‘double blind placebo controlled’. No time for this… Don’t worry we have you covered. Below we have listed our recommend sports supplements that have proven performance results.
Is the Supplement Safe or Not?The last thing you need to consider is whether the supplement is legal and safe. This is another grey area in the sports supplement industry. A lot of supplements on the market are new, meaning they haven’t been tested over a long period. Therefore it’s difficult to indicate how safe they are and the effects (if any) they will have on you later on in life. So… Before taking any sports supplements you must consider: How long has the supplement been studied? (Have the effects been studied over a period of 20 years or more?) Does the supplement contain unknown or toxic supplements? (Very important in football, where drug tests are frequent) Are there any adverse side effects? (This won’t be listed on the bottle, so further research is required) So to summarise you want to know is it legal, it is safe and does it work.
Sports Supplement ClassificationThe world’s leading researcher in sports nutrition is the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). They research and test the safety and effectiveness of sports supplements and group them into classifications. Their group classifications of sports supplements are A, B, C, D.
Category A – Approved SupplementsThis is the top group of classification and any sports supplement listed in the category is supported for use in sport. These supplements have the seal of approval from the AIS and have a proven record in performance enhancement. The supporting evidence of these supplements is conclusive. Supplements that are classed in Category A are:
- Beetroot Juice
- Beta Alanine
- Sports Bars
- Sports drinks
- Sports Gels
- Whey Protein
Category B – Supplements Under ConsiderationSupplements in Category B may still work effectively, however they still require more research before AIS can promote them to Category A. So as yet the research is inconclusive. This category contains supplements such as:
- Fish Oils
Category C – Supplements That Have No Clear Proof of Beneficial EffectThis category is for supplements that are not recommended and have no beneficial performance effect. Supplements that fall under this group are:
- Coenzyme q10
Category D – Banned SubstancesSteer clear of anything in this group, anything listed here is banned or a high risk of contamination that would lead to a positive result in a drug test. Supplements that fall under this category are:
- Methylhexanamine (DMAA)