The Consumer Education Project of Milk SA

What about supplements? Is it vital or is it a foe?

A supplement is useful if the athlete cannot include certain foods or food groups in their diet for reasons such as allergies, intolerances etc. However, they are not essential. Sports supplements such as shakes, recovery drinks, gels, bars etc. are often more convenient for the athlete when used correctly, however even these are not always necessary.


Apart from carbohydrate energy drinks, gels, and bars (also termed ‘sport foods’) that can play a role especially during endurance events to maintain normal blood sugar levels, the efficacy of the majority of other supplements can’t be backed up by scientific evidence. In my opinion, apart from a few exceptions, supplements in general are a foe!


Supplements are never a necessity, but they can maybe make life easier for the athlete that needs to eat great volumes of food. Is the nutritional value that the athlete gets from supplements any BETTER than that in food? The answer is NO. It is therefore not vital to use supplements, unless:

  • the athlete is eating too little (at a great energy deficit),
  • is eliminating certain foods or food groups from their diet,
  • is recovering from illness or is just an overall fussy eater.

In these conditions, the athlete may consider supplementation but must pay careful consideration to their nutritional goals prior to committing to supplement use.

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Authors
Elsabe Janse van Noordwyk
Elsabe Janse van Noordwyk

Registered Physiotherapist
BSc Physiotherapy (UFS)
Private Practice Little Company of Mary, Pretoria

Lize Havemann-Nel
Lize Havemann-Nel

Registered dietitian, Senior Lecturer
School for Physiology, Nutrition and Consumer Science
North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus)

Nicki de Villiers
Nicki de Villiers

Registered Dietitian
BDietetics (UP)
Postgrad Dipl Hosp Dietetics (UP)
Postgrad Dipl Sport Nutr (IOC)
Private practise: HPC – University of Pretoria

Pippa Mullins
Pippa Mullins

Registered dietitian
BSc DIET; PG DIP DIET (UN);
PG DIP Sports Nutr (IOC)
Practice: MME Dietitians