Which Supplements Are Safe? | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Which Supplements Are Safe?

November 15, 2010

Must See Nutrition Videos

Many people assume all supplements are safe, but that is simply not true. Companies are constantly coming up with new, proprietary formulas that they advertise as safe ways to make athletes bigger and stronger. Too often, one or more of their ingredients, never properly tested, could trigger a failed drug test for an NCAA or pro athlete.

Nutrition experts agree that athletes should concentrate first on eating properly, before even considering supplements. If a nutrient deficiency still exists with a balanced diet, a supplement can be used to remedy it.

When supplementing your diet, stick with nutrients found naturally in food or produced by the body. Don't ingest mysterious substances that could have unknown consequences. This way, you will maximize strength gains at the same time as you cure dietary deficiencies.

Listed below are several common supplements.

Multivitamins. Multivitamins provide a variety of vitamins and minerals essential for the body's daily activities. Few people consume the right amount of all essential vitamins and minerals through their regular diet, which makes multivitamins more important. Proper intake of these nutrients improves recovery and increases endurance, energy and aerobic capacity.

Flaxseed Oil. Flaxseed oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (O-3FA), an essential fat. Because the body cannot produce it, O-3FA must be consumed through diet or supplementation. Adequate O-3FA intake speeds recovery and reduces muscle inflammation after workouts and competition. It also improves cardiovascular function and overall health. Some studies have linked O-3FA with increased strength levels, but further research is necessary.

Vitamin C. Few things negatively affect performance more than illness and disease, so a healthy immune system is essential. Vitamin C is great for boosting the immune system and overall health. It is also critical for sustained muscle contractions, improved endurance and aerobic capacity; and it helps repair connective tissue—a major benefit for strength-training athletes.

Protein. Protein is vital for repairing muscles after they've been broken down by intense exercise or competition. The amino acids in protein are the body's building blocks for making muscles bigger and stronger. Without adequate protein intake, this process cannot occur. Protein supplements, such as whey powder, supply protein without delivering significant amounts of fat or calories—an added benefit to athletes concerned about fat loss.

Glucosamine. Supplementing with glucosamine is a way to keep your joints loose and lubricated, therefore healthy and feeling good. It increases water absorption into tissues, which decreases stiffness in joints and improves their shock-absorption capability. According to a study in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who took glucosamine supplements daily for 12 weeks experienced a decrease in knee pain.

Beta-Alanine. Beta-alanine is a naturally-occurring amino acid that delays fatigue. It works by reducing the effects of lactic acid, the source of that uncomfortable burning sensation you feel when exercising at your limits. It doesn’t directly stimulate muscle growth, but it can improve the quality of your workouts by allowing you to perform additional reps to challenge your muscles.

For more information on supplementing your diet, check out these STACK articles:

The Lowdown on Supplements
Supplement Labels and the NSF-Certified Seal
Best Multivitamins
Unravel the Mystery of Protein
The Benefits of Glucosamine

Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is an Associate Content Director at STACK Media. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is an Associate Content Director at STACK Media. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

DHEA Supplements: Should You Take Them?

4 Creatine Myths Exposed

Fuel for Thought: Gels, Bloks and Beans

Iodine: An Overlooked Essential Mineral for Female Athletes

7 Sketchy Marketing Phrases Used By Supplement Companies

The Best Post-Workout Supplements and Nutrition

Use Sodium Bicarbonate to Get More Out of Creatine

The Positive Side Effects of Creatine (Besides Building Muscle)

Make Sure You're Getting Enough Calcium

Why You Need Vitamin D in Your Diet

4 Best Supplements for Football Players

The Truth About Muscle-Enhancing Supplements

The Powerful Health Benefits of Turmeric

Do Athletes Need Zinc Supplements?

This Just In: Boost Your Workout With Peppermint

Workout Supplements: Do You Really Need Them?

Should You Be Taking BCAAs?

7 Rules That Would End PED Use in Baseball Immediately

The 5 Essential Sports Supplements

Soy vs. Whey Protein

Can Baking Soda Improve Your Training Gains?

3 Tips on Choosing the Best Post-Workout Creatine

Blueberry Supplements: Better Than Actual Blueberries?

HGH Use Among Teens on the Rise, According to Survey

Are Pre-Workout Supplements Right For You?

Why You Can't Ignore Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

What's Missing From the Female Athlete's Diet, Part 2: Iron

Demystifying Popular Smoothie Boosters

3 Reasons Why You Should Take a Fish Oil Supplement

L.A. Galaxy's Safe Supplementation for Soccer Players

The 6 Most Promising Weight-Loss Supplements

How to Select a Healthy Protein Bar

The One Thing You Need to Do to Build Muscle

2 Safe Pre-Workout Supplements

The Best Time to Consume Creatine

Ask the Experts: Is Caffeine Safe for Athletes?

Should I Take Creatine?

4 Muscle-Building Supplements That Don't Work

6 Supplements That Power Quality Workouts

3 Supplements to Boost On-Ice Performance

ZMA: Is This Mysterious Supplement Right for You?

Why Creatine Is the Best Sports Supplement

Powder Hour: Is It Time to Add Protein Powder to Your Diet?

Creatine Supplements: Benefits, Concerns, Types and Dosage

7 Fiber Supplements: More Than Just For Weight Loss

5 Rules You Must Know Before Taking a Fish Oil Supplement