To evaluate dietary supplement use in young Canadian athletes, their motivation for consuming supplements, and their sources of information.
A questionnaire tested for content validity and reliability was administered to 567 athletes between the ages of 11 and 25 years from the Canadian athletic community in face-to-face meetings. Demographics and sport variables were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Fisher’s exact tests were used to examine dietary supplementation patterns and sources of information regarding dietary supplement use between categories of gender, age, sport type, and competition level.
Ninety-eight percent of athletes were taking at least one dietary supplement. Males were more likely to consume protein powder, energy drinks, recovery drinks, branched chain amino acids, beta-alanine, and glutamine (p < .01); supplements typically associated with increased muscle mass. Athletes 11–17 years old focused on vitamin and mineral supplements; whereas, athletes 18–25 years old focused on purported ergogenic supplements. Strength training athletes were more likely to consume creatine, glutamine, and protein powders (p < .02). Reasons for supplement use included to stay healthy, increase energy, immune system, recovery, and overall performance. Primary sources of information were family and friends, coaches, and athletic trainers; with 48% of athletes having met with a dietitian. Preferred means of education included individual consultations, presentations, and the internet.
The majority of young athletes are using dietary supplements with the belief they will improve performance and health; however, may not always have reliable information. Educational programs using individual consultations and electronic media are recommended for this demographic.