Common Dietary Supplements Used by Elite Athletes

Common Dietary Supplements Used by Elite Athletes

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For my 4rth article in my series of articles on dietary supplements that may help to improve athletic performance, I am going to review a recent study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine (Erdman et al, 2007) which reviews common dietary supplements used by elite Canadian athletes.

Though it is generally accepted that elite athletes are more likely to use dietary supplements than people who do not exercise, it is important to get an understanding of which dietary supplements are most commonly used and for what reasons. Not surprisingly, the most common dietary supplements used included energy drinks/bars, multivitamins, protein supplements, and vitamin C. Further, common reasons for athletes using dietary supplements included: increase energy, maintain health, improve exercise recovery, add/maintain muscle mass, and to enhance immunity.

Dietary Supplement Statistics:

  • Nearly 90% of participants reported taking at least 1 dietary supplement (DS) during the previous six months.
  • Mean of 3.08 +/- 1.87 DS per user over the previous six months.

Most Common Athlete Supplements:

  1. sports (energy) drinks
  2. sports (energy) bars
  3. multivitamins and minerals
  4. protein supplements
  5. vitamin C

Less Common Supplements

  1. echinacea (3.5%)
  2. creatine (2.4%)
  3. l-glutamine (2.4%)
  4. herbal preparations (0.8%)
  5. other amino acids (0.2%)

Top 3 Reasons Athletes Used Supplements:

  1. Increase energy
  2. Health maintenance/prevent deficiency
  3. Improve exercise recovery

Top 3 Dietary Supplement Advisors for Athletes:

  1. Family/friends
  2. Teammates
  3. Coach

Important!  The International Olympic Committee’s DS analysis from 5 different international laboratories demonstrated that between 11.6% and 25.8% of readily accessible DS tested in their labs contained prohibited substances not listed on product labels (Pipe et al, 2002).


  1. Erdman KA, Fung TS, Doyle-Baker PK, Verhoef MJ, Reimer RA. Dietary supplementation of high-performance Canadian athletes by age and gender. Clin J Sport Med. 2007 Nov;17(6):458-64.
  2. Pipe A, Ayotte C. Nutritional supplements and doping. Clin J Sport Med. 2002;12:245–249.
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