What's NCAA legal and what supplements are illegal?
With so much nutrition information on television, on the internet, and in the media, many consumers find themselves confused and unsure of what to believe. College athletes are no exception. In addition to safety and efficacy, student-athletes must also be aware of the NCAA regulations with regard to the use of nutrition supplements. The NCAA separates supplements into three different categories: Permissible, Impermissible and Banned. Before purchasing anything, it is important to understand what those categories are and what fits into each.
1. Permissible Substances:
This refers to the group of items that may be provided to a student athlete by a university. They include vitamins and minerals, energy bars, calorie replacement drinks (with less than 30% of the calories from protein), and electrolyte replacement drinks (Ex: Gatorade and Powerade). The key here is the protein content. Institutions cannot provide products in which greater than 30% of the calories per serving come from protein.
2. Impermissible Substances:
This refers to a group of nutritional supplements that a university or college cannot provide to an athlete, but the athlete MAY purchase on his own. Items in this category include creatine, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA), Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), and nutritional supplements that contain larger quantities of whey or casein protein.
3. Banned Substances:
These are the items that the NCAA has clearly banned and are illegal to take as a college athlete. This list includes substances such as stimulants, anabolic agents, street drugs, diuretics and a growing list of prescription drugs unless under a doctor’s direction. Athletes are subject to random drug testing in which a positive test can lead to loss of eligibility.
So now that the terms have been defined, what does an athlete do? The answer is “Do your homework”. A student-athlete needs to be aware of three major factors with regard to nutrition supplementation: safety, compliance with NCAA and university regulations, and efficacy.
Safety: Perhaps one of the most important facts that all student-athletes and parents should know and understand is that the supplement industry is NOT regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). This means that there is NO guarantee that the supplement you are taking is pure and not tainted with something that should not be in the product. Keep in mind: “Natural” does not equal “Safe.” The best approach is to check with your athletic department medical staff to have all products evaluated BEFORE you start using a product.
Compliance: Many of the products, like Jack3d, and supplements, like those on the Not 1R Approved List, that are available at drug stores and health food stores contain ingredients that are on the banned list; caffeine, ephedrine, and norandrostenediol to name a few. Just because you can buy a product at the drug store, that does not mean it is acceptable to be used by a college athlete. Ask yourself: Is my eligibility really worth the risk? Do your research. Ask questions.
Efficacy: Despite all of the rules and regulations, there are still many supplements out there that can be beneficial for an athlete. It has been proven that electrolyte replacement drinks can aid with hydration and performance. Nutrition shakes after weight training sessions aid in muscle recovery and replenish muscle glycogen (the storage form of energy in the muscles). Some female athletes would benefit greatly from a daily iron supplement, as they can be at increased risk of Iron Deficiency Anemia. For the athlete who is trying to improve strength, Creatine Monohydrate may be something they want to add to their daily routine. While these options may prove to be effective, no single food, drink, supplement, meal or snack can enhance performance entirely on its own. Keep in mind that an optimal training diet meets an athlete’s calorie needs with an appropriate balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate. A balanced and varied eating plan will also deliver appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals. Everything we take in works together to meet our energy demands.
Many athletes experience fatigue or lack of energy during their competitive season and during strenuous training periods. Often times this can be attributed to inadequate total calorie intake or carbohydrate consumption. Despite the fact that the athlete is lacking with regard to their sports nutrition, they will try supplements in an attempt to increase physical and mental performance. As an athlete, you have increased calorie needs. The goal is to eat enough calories to generate maximum gains in strength and endurance and to support rapid recovery from training and competing. Making a sound nutrition plan and adequate rest a priority in conjunction with a solid training program is imperative to reach your full potential.