No matter what the connotation, irrespective of whether people think they are good or bad for sport, supplements are used by athletes worldwide…and the England team are no exception.
Sport supplements are technically defined as ‘ergogenic aids’. An ergogenic aid is any training technique, mechanical device, nutritional practice, pharmacological method (science of drugs) or psychological technique which can improve performance and training adaptations. Supplements are known as ‘borderline substances’ because they can be a combination of ‘nutritional practice’ and ‘pharmacological methods’, meaning they do not qualify as a medicinal substance and are hence distinguished as a ‘sport supplement’ (Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, 2006). It is the addition of some pharmacological substances such as caffeine for example, which are completely safe and effective, that can give sport supplementation a negative undertone amongst the general public. This is not only an unfortunate undertone, but a wholly inaccurate one too (Kreider, Wilborn, Taylor et al. 2010).
Football supplements in the press
A recent news article looking at the England football team’s use of caffeine pills alongside sleeping tablets has raised valid questions about the safety of poorly planned and unstructured supplement regimens. However, the newspaper in question failed to acknowledge the context of this ill advised supplement combination, which incidentally occurred as a result of the fascicle postponement of the World Cup qualifier against Poland last Tuesday. A few players had taken (quite legitimately) a caffeine tablet in preparation for this match in order to help them focus and maximise energy levels during the game, the consequent postponement meant players were all dressed up with nowhere to go! The caffeine tablet did its job, but without the physical exertion needed to burn the effects off, the players found they were unable to sleep later that night…hence the sleeping tablet.
The pharmacological components of these two drugs do not lend themselves to one another very well; they both exert their effects on similar parts of the brain and body and could therefore cause an overload. England players…that should go down as a LESSON LEARNED!
(See the original news article)
Supplements are safe if taken responsibly
Like with anything, due care and attention should be paid before committing to a ‘performance enhancing’ product, after all, many homemade formulas seem to be entering the market that are not moderated by the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and therefore contain dubious ingredients. If you buy from a reputable distributer, namely maltadextrin and you stick to the recommended dosage, are careful not to combine products containing the same active ingredients, and have no underlying medical condition that might put you at risk e.g. heart, kidney or liver conditions, then sport supplementation is completely safe, extremely well researched, and an undeniable asset to sports professionals and amateurs alike.
Supplement use within the England Football team
An estimated 40-60% of amateur and professional athletes worldwide choose to use nutritional supplements, you see it on the sidelines of Sunday league football, and you see it on your flat screen (or in the stadium if you’re lucky) when England takes the stage. Sport supplements are an international commodity; they are indiscriminate and work on absolutely anybody! I cannot categorically say which players take what within the England camp, but it is well documented that Protein shakes and bars, Creatine, Carbohydrates, all in one blends, Protein and Carb blends, stimulants such as caffeine, multi- vitamins and minerals, isotonic and electrolyte replenishment beverages and energy gels are common practice amongst some of football’s elite.
Supplements support the preparation for training or a match. They help a person tolerate a more intensive training regimen by maximising endurance, total power and strength (for example), and they are a convenient and effective means of replacing what you lost during training or competition e.g. protein and carbohydrate (Petroczi and Naughton, 2007). The FA acknowledge that sport supplements have, and probably always will have a place in the English game, but they do warn that players should be careful not to overdose on certain supplements, case in point…caffeine tablets, and they should ensure that their supplements do not contain any substances that are banned from the professional game. A footballer or any athlete for that matter is solely responsible for anything that is found in his/her body (The FA.com)!
Role of a Dietitian or Nutritionist
The England players have access to nutrition experts both at international and club level, their role is to ensure that the players diet and supplement regimen is exactly what they need. A Dietitian is the only nutrition expert that is protected by an ethical code; they are legally obligated to give safe and up to date nutritional information and can help an individual get the most out of their dietary routine. Check the following video for a rare interview with Chelsea head Nutritionist Nick Broad in which he discusses the key role that protein bars have in the changing rooms and canteens both before and after training!
He explains how a protein dense snack bar that is low in refined sugar and carbs makes for an optimal post workout snack. Carbohydrate bars are useful both before and after exercise for a sustained release of energy, whilst energy gels deliver a perfect, readily absorbed source of high GI carbs that will not bloat you or sit heavily in your stomach. It is down to a nutrition expert to strategically insert these supplements into a periodised training and diet regime so that they are consumed at the ideal times and in the optimal quantities.
It was well known that the England team used to take a handful of Haribo immediately after a game for a quick punch of high GI sugar that would cause a spike in insulin. Insulin is an anabolic (growth) hormone that enhances the absorption of carbohydrate and isotonic drinks, but also maximises the absorption and use of protein. This same principle is used in the gym and fitness environment whereby the simple addition of 15-20g of Maltodextrin or Dextrose to your protein or post work- out shake can enhance the absorption via the same mechanisms mentioned above. Dietitian’s and Nutritionists can be expensive if you require personalised nutritional advice, tailored supplement regimes and guidance on how you can best implement these into your daily routine. We acknowledge this at Discount-Supplements and therefore offer you FREE access to our in- house Dietitian's and Nutritionist's. So if you don’t play for England and would like advice and support on how you can supplement like an England International, give us a call or post your messages on our social network pages including Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Kreider, R, B., Wilborn, C, D., Taylor, L. et al. (2010). ISSN exercise & sport nutrition review: research and recomendations. Journal of the international society of sports nutrition. 7: 1550-2783.
Petroczi, A & Naughton, D, P. (2007). Supplement use in sport: is there a potentially dangerous incongruence between rationale and practice? Journal of occupational medical toxicology. 2(4): 29-33.