Be smart when taking dietary supplements

By Ken Mannie, head strength and conditioning coach Michigan State University

Food should always be your first source for nutrients and the body’s energy/recovery requirements. If you choose to take a dietary supplement, be cautious that you don’t put your health or eligibility at risk. Before taking any over-the-counter supplement, check with a registered dietician on the safety, legality and efficacy of the product.

Here are some key questions to ask regarding supplements:

Why am I taking this supplement?

If you’re taking a supplement because a friend or fellow athlete recommended it, that does not guarantee that the product is safe, effective or permissible.

Is there a purity seal/certification on the product?

Always look for a purity seal of certification — not just any will do. The certifications you’re looking for are from independent, third-party organizations that test for banned and adulterated ingredients. Seals that you should look for are Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG), NSF Certified for Sport, Informed-Choice/Informed Sport, and United States Pharmacopia (USP). If the supplement does not have at least one of these names/logos on the packaging, there’s a certain amount of risk involved in using the product.

While these certifications increase the likelihood that the product if free of banned substances, there is no guarantee. Also, it’s not a seal of approval that the product will reap its purported benefits.

Does the supplement make outrageous claims?

If a supplement makes claims that sound too good to be true, they most likely are. Any statement of “extreme muscle gain or weight loss” in a short period of time is voodoo propaganda. Your best bet is to stay clear of it and save your hard-earned money for some good, healthy food.

Are there questionable catch phrases?

“All natural,” “clinically tested and proven” or “gold standard,” “pharmaceutical strength” are all terms that are not regulated and do not offer any guarantees for product safety or efficacy.

— Ken Mannie is the head strength and conditioning coach Michigan State University. His column, Powerline, appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.