NADA India

Supplements and The Risks

Naturally-found nutritious food has no replacement. Taking the right food at the right time in the right quantity is the best policy. More so for athletes. While this is true, many athletes consider taking food supplements necessary to achieve better performance, endurance and recovery. Food supplements are becoming increasingly popular among athletes and sportspersons. 

What Are Supplements?

Supplements are used, commonly alongside a regular diet, to improve general health, increase the nutritional intake in a diet, assist with weight gain or loss and enhance sports performance or recovery.

Supplements can take various forms, including mineral, vitamin or herbal tablets, sports drinks, herbal drinks, energy bars, protein powders, meal replacements, natural food supplements or other related products, including antioxidants, herbs, homoeopathic remedies or traditional medicines. They can be found, amongst others, in a pill, tablet, capsule, powder or liquid form. Supplements often claim to help with building muscle, increasing endurance, weight gain or loss, aiding recovery or overcoming a mineral deficiency and thus can appeal to a sportsperson.

What are the risks
associated with supplements?

Risk of

Consumption of supplements may put the athlete at risk of committing ADRV and being banned from sports because of presence of prohibited substance in the supplements.

Risk of
False Claims

Supplements do not seem to be as strictly regulated as they should be. This means there could be various issues with supplements – quality, ingredients, labelling, fake claims and contamination, to mention some.

Risk of Getting

The quality of the supplement is paramount to consider, as it can adversely affect an athlete’s health. Knowing the risks of taking certain supplements before using them is also crucial. Because, they can lead to severe consequences such as a ban for four years or more in case the sportsperson is tested positive for any of the banned substances found in the supplement. 

Risk of

Certain supplements do not truly reflect the actual contents on their labels. They might have certain banned substances or metabolites not listed in the labels. Many supplements may also make the false claim of not containing any prohibited substances or even claim to be WADA compliant on the label. The athletes have to be cautious at all times.

How do Athletes Reduce the
Risk of Taking Supplements?

Athletes can reduce the risk of taking supplements by doing the following:


Choose/select supplements as per your requirements or recommended by sports nutritionists and health professionals.


Confirm the dosages required as per your daily activity, gender and age.


Check expiry date before buying supplements through online and offline.


Look for tamper-proof/tamper-evident packaging.


Look for the authentication system provided by the manufacturers.


Beware of unsubstantiated health claims.


Choose supplements that are tested and approved by a certified body

Suppose you see ingredients on a supplement label that have numbers coupled with Greek letters (like 1a or b or b, 3a or b, 17a or b etc.), or any of the phrases below, the product may contain steroids or stimulants and thus may be avoided.

 -ol -diol | -one -dione | -dienone | -stene | -amine -arine | -ermine |-heptane | -hexane | -pentane | -aminol