Nutritional supplement habits of athletes with an impairment and their sources of information

The consumption of nutritional supplements (NS) is common among able-bodied (AB) athletes yet little is known about NS use by athletes with an impairment. This study examined the: (i) prevalence of NS use by athletes with an impairment; (ii) reasons for use/ non-use; (iii) sources of information regarding NS; and (iv) whether age, gender, impairment, performance level and sport category influence NS use. The questionnaire was completed by 399 elite (n=255) and non-elite (n=144) athletes (296 M, 103 F) online or at a sporting event/training camp. Data were evaluated using chi-square analyses. Fifty-eight percent (n=232) of athletes used NS in the previous 6-month period and 41% (n=102) of these followed the instructions on the label to determine dose. Adherence to these AB recommendations may partly explain why 9% (n=37) experienced negative effects from NS use. As expected, the most popular NS were: protein, sports drinks, multivitamins and carbohydrate supplements, which were obtained from health food/sport shops, internet and supermarkets (top 3) where evidence-based, impairment-specific advice is limited. The nutritionist/dietitian was the most used and trusted source of information, which is a promising finding. The most prevalent reasons for use were to support exercise recovery, support the immune system and provide energy. Elite athletes were more likely to use NS, which may reflect greater training hours and/or access to nutritionists. Fifty-two percent of athletes (n=209) requested more information/ education regarding NS. NS use is prevalent in this population. Education on dosage and appropriate sources of information is required.