Methods: The nutritional supplementation practices of 32 national track and field athletes competing at the 2004 World Junior Championships were studied using an anonymous questionnaire. Information was sought on the prevalence and type of supplement used, the reasons for use, knowledge of supplements, and sources of information.
Results: Use of supplements was widespread with 62% of respondents declaring supplement use. Prevalence in female athletes (75%) was higher than in males (55%) but was not statistically significant. No differences were found for age, training volume, or type of event. Seventeen different supplements were taken, with each athlete using an average of 2.4 products, multivitamins and minerals being the most popular. Reasons for using supplements were for health (45%), to enhance the immune system (40%), and to improve performance (25%). Of all respondents 48% believed they had an average knowledge of supplements, but three quarters felt that they required further information. Those not using supplements were more likely to think supplements were associated with health risks than those taking them (p = 0.03). Most athletes (72%) have access to a sports dietician but underutilise this resource. Coaches (65%) had the greatest influence on supplementation practices, with doctors (25%) and sports dieticians (30%) being less important.
Conclusions: Supplementation practices were widespread among the population studied. The findings of this investigation could be used to enable the sports dietician and physician to identify common misconceptions held by adolescent athletes regarding nutritional supplements and to implement educational programs, which should include members of the non-medical support team.
- dietary supplements
- ergogenic aids
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Competing interests: none declared