Intake of dietary supplements is widespread among athletes in developed countries. This study evaluated the use of dietary supplements in athletes from a developing country. Dietary supplementation practices of 113 national-level athletes age 15–35 yr in Sri Lanka were assessed. All athletes from track-and-field, badminton, football, swimming, cycling, and karate squads who consented to participate in the study were administered an anonymous questionnaire by an interviewer. Information on number of supplements taken, frequency of use, nature of product, rationale, sources of advice, and reasons for taking supplements was obtained. Most athletes (94%) consumed dietary supplements. On average, 3.7 products/day were consumed. Footballers had significantly lower intake of supplements than other athletes (footballers 71%, others 98%; p < .05). They also consumed fewer products per day (footballers 0.7, others 3.5; p < .05). Popular supplements included multivitamins, vitamin E, calcium, energy foods and drinks, and creatine. Multiple supplement use was common, with 29% athletes taking 4 products/day. The athletes sought advice on supplement use from sports doctors (45%), team coaches (40%), or friends (15%). Most took supplements to improve performance (79%), and 19% claimed to take supplements to improve their overall health status. Dietary supplement use is widespread among national-level Sri Lankan athletes. The ad hoc use of supplements indicates that educational intervention in the sporting community is essential.
de Silva, Samarasinghe, and Lanerolle are with the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Senanayake is with the Institute of Sports Medicine, Ministry of Sports, Sri Lanka.