GAA Guidelines on Performance Nutrition & Supplements
What Are they?
When someone mentions dietary supplements, nutritional supplements or ergogenic aids, they are referring to the collective that is sports supplements. Such supplements can take the form of drinks, protein powders and bars, liquid meal replacements or creatine, as well as many more.
Due largely to the fact that this industry is not licensed, the manufacture of such products, as well as their labelling and marketing is poorly regulated with quality control also being of varying standards. Subsequently, there is a risk that some supplements will contain ingredients either not listed, or incorrectly listed on the product packaging.
GAA and Supplements
The GAA recognises the demands of Gaelic games and indeed the training and nutrition challenges they present. The Association also recognises that there are many factors that contribute to optimal athletic performance such as genetics, training, commitment, motivation, rest and recovery, along with good nutrition and hydration practices. These factors are the cornerstone of performance therefore using a sport nutrition supplement will not substitute for a less than adequate nutrition and/or hydration strategy. Sports supplement companies use powerful marketing campaigns to imply that the use of sports supplements are essential for maximising performance; however, much of the publicity is not based on sound scientific evidence.
Choosing to take a sports supplement is a balance between weighing up the risks (i.e. contamination and a potential sporting ban) against a potential exercise performance benefit. If you choose to take a supplement, make a decision after considering the following:
- Need – Do I need additional ingredients in my diet? If so, can I get them from food?
- Risk – If not, what risks are involved with a supplement that might help?
- Consequences – Understand the sanctions for taking a contaminated supplement
It is ultimately the players choice to make.
- Vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements, sports nutrition products (e.g. Protein, Creatine, BCAAs), and natural food products are all classed as supplements.
- Players may use them to maintain health, recover from exercise, enhance training adaptations, gain weight, burn fat and/or supplement their diet or for medical reasons
- Risks with supplements are categorised in terms of health and possible doping violations
- Batch tested products are not as risky; however, no guarantee can be given on the safety of a supplement
- Be aware that supplements which claim to be muscle building or fat burning are more likely to be associated with contamination
- The use of supplements is not recommend for any player under the age of 18
- Players should seek the opinion of a registered Sports Dietician/Nutritionist and their Team Doctor on any supplement
- Players should undertake and record online research of any supplement before making a decision on whether to take it.
Supplements should never be used to substitute good nutrition practices and be aware that there is always risk associated with taking sports supplements.
Particular age groups may be more at risk in relation to supplements - adolescents in particular who use muscle bulking agents are at risk of developing potentially career ending injuries
In parallel with the risks to health and performance, there are cost considerations also. Many supplements and sports foods are quite expensive; if the basic nutrition and hydration processes are not correct then they will be of no benefit. Very often athletes will waste money on products and can be in danger of creating a culture of over-reliance on pharmaceutical agents in a culture where drug abuse is increasingly prevalent.
For further information on supplements check out https://www.wada-ama.org/ or http://www.sportireland.ie/Anti-Doping/Athlete-Zone/Supplements_Nutrition/