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Centre for Human Performance

PROSPER: Safer Supplement use Project

An education-based intervention to raise awareness around the roles and risks of supplement use for health and performance, to protect the integrity and welfare of university and TASS athletes.

PROSPER: Safer Supplement use Project

The challenge

Supplement use is prevalent in ~85% of athletes, with multiple consumption being common. Although the majority of 12 – 21-year-old athletes in the UK (78%) do not believe nutritional supplementation necessary to be successful in sport, almost half reported using at least one supplement. Performance based improvements, such as maintenance of strength, endurance enhancements, the ability to train longer and recovery better have been associated with supplement use. Other reasons for supplement consumption include, being an ‘insurance policy’ for an imbalanced diet and to avoid illness, convenience and because everyone else is doing it.

However, athletes who use dietary supplements may be associated with an accepting attitude of doping at a later stage where the prevalence of doping is higher in supplement users than in athletes who do not use supplements. Additionally, there is a risk of inadvertent doping due to supplement contamination or adulteration, which can still result in a significant ban from sport (i.e., 2 years). As such, it is important to raise awareness of this and support our athletes in making informed choices, as well as engaging them in strategies to assess the need and minimise the risks associated with supplement use.

Images of weights at a gym

THE APPROACH

Sports nutrition practitioners and researchers from the Carnegie School of Sport worked with the Carnegie Sport Athletics Union and Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme to raise awareness about supplement use. This collaborative approach over the last 2 years, has been linked to UK Anti-doping Clean Sport Week and has included social media campaign, educational resources in the café and gym areas, safer supplement quizzes and a blog for Carnegie Sport.

THE IMPACT

The multiple interventions promoted safer supplement use to the Carnegie Sport community and has since lead to an update in policy regarding supplements use in research and education at Leeds Beckett University. As a result, supplements now sold at the university have to be registered with Informed Sport, a certification programme which minimises the risk of supplement contamination. Additionally, the educational promotion of a food first approach has helped raise awareness of better dietary choices among the athlete community. Consequently, putting the athlete’s wellbeing at the forefront of this collaborative project.

Over that past 2 years staff and students from the Sport & Exercise Nutrition course have provided excellent support, advice and training for the Sport & Active Lifestyles Department. They produced a range of posters educating members on safe supplement use and the importance of food first initiatives. They have also supported social media campaigns for Clean Sport Week and have provided a Safe Supplement Quiz for scholars and sports club members which was thought provoking and informative.

The supplement quiz got some great engagement from AU club members who all fed back that they had learnt something new from the session that they could use within their own training and nutrition. It’s fantastic to be able to turn to the team for expertise and advice which really benefits and educates all our members in the sports centre.

AU Welfare

Contact Debbie Smith

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