Supplements and the athlete: what the S&C coach must know before even beginning to have this conversation

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Graeme Close

Sport nutrition is one of the fastest growing areas of sport science, with the emergence of the sport nutritionist as an integral part of many elite sporting organisations. Qualified sport nutritionists (SENr accredited) will be trained to make informed decisions about supplements, including a comprehensive awareness of the rules and regulations around anti-doping violations. Despite the growth of the discipline, many sporting organisations do not have the financial resources to employ a sport nutritionist and the responsibility is often, and unfairly, passed onto the S&C coach, without any specific training or support. It is therefore of no surprise that emerging research highlights a lack of basic understanding by many elite athletes regarding supplements and drugs, which can result in anti-doping violations and subsequent suspensions. Aside from supplement safety, there are numerous unnecessary supplements being used in elite sport as a consequence of inaccurate claims being made about their efficacy – for example, ‘fat burning’ pills. This presentation will critique some of the key literature with regards to sports supplements and then assess the transitional ability of this research. It will propose a four-stage working model to help assess the efficacy of sports supplements and offer advice to the S&C professional when it comes to implementing a safe and effective supplement strategy. BIOG: Professor Graeme Close is a former professional rugby league player. He is now a professor of human physiology at Liverpool John Moores University, where he is the programme leader for the MSc in sport nutrition. Graeme’s research is focused on basic and applied sport nutrition, about which he has published more than 100 papers and review articles. Specifically, Graeme’s current research is focused on the effects of Vitamin D on skeletal muscle function, the role of free radicals in skeletal muscle adaptations and the metabolic and nutritional demands of elite rugby. Graeme is accredited with the UKSCA, BASES and SENr. He is currently the deputy chair of SENr and a fellow of BASES. From an applied perspective, Graeme is the expert nutrition consultant to England Rugby, and nutrition consultant to Everton FC and West Bromwich Albion FC. He consults to several Super League rugby league clubs, as well as professional tennis players; he is also the lead nutritionist for many European Tour golfers.