Sports Dr.: Keepin’ it real with nutritional supplements

Some of the most popular types of supplements are protein supplements, high protein bars and amino acids preparations.

August 15, 2011 03:41
3 minute read.
Yonatan Kaplan

Yonatan Kaplan headshot. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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This article will continues a discussion on supplements that was begun in last week’s column.


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Some of the most popular types of supplements are protein supplements, high protein bars and amino acids preparations.

Protein is one of the body’s fuel sources for muscles during exercise. The amino acids found in the protein in our bodies create new tissue, repair existing tissue and aid in the manufacturing of enzymes and hormones, which are involved in numerous bodily functions, such as metabolism.

Studies have shown that most athletes consume far more than the recommended daily dose of protein, which completely negates the need for supplementation.

Additionally, whole proteins found in foods are generally better than taking individual amino acids.



Anti-oxidants play an important role in defending the body’s tissues against the effects of strenuous exercise.

The body naturally develops this defensive system, without the use of supplements, as long as one is consuming a balanced diet. Taking this into account, scientists are presently at a loss as to whether or not adding hard training exercises leads to a greater need for dietary antioxidants.

The use of supplements, however, is not recommended at present time as the research does not seem to indicate that anti-oxidant supplements provide any benefit for the body.

Some research even suggests that supplementation of this kind can reduce the efficiency of the body’s natural defense system.


The most prevalent nutrient deficiency in the world is iron deficiency, and is extremely widespread among athletes.

When it occurs in athletes, it can impair training. Some symptoms of iron deficiency are decreased endurance ability, chronic fatigue and recurring illness, for instance, minor infections.

Iron plays a fundamental role in the delivery to and usage of oxygen by muscles during exercise.

Unfortunately, the human body does not generate its own iron; therefore, it must come from an outside source. The average recommended daily dose of iron, according to a recent paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, is 8mg/day for men and 18 mg/day for women.

Females need to carefully monitor their iron intake, as their menstrual cycle augments their requirements for iron, due to loss of blood and a lower food intake. It is advised that females eat foods rich in iron, especially during this time of the month, and in general, since women on average, eat less than men.

It is strongly recommended that anyone who has unexplained fatigue, especially a vegetarian or vegan, consult with a sports nutrition expert and a sports physician. It is not a good idea to start going on supplements before properly investigating the matter.

In general, it is not advisable to take iron supplements. Too much iron can be just as harmful to the body as is too little.

Additionally, giving the body too much iron without properly consulting a doctor can lead to ignoring the real problem at hand – fatigue. It is always better to consult with a doctor in order to discover what caused the iron deficiency, than to just treat the symptoms.


Another important nutrient and popular supplement is calcium.

Calcium promotes healthy bones and this fact has led to many countries adding calcium to many everyday foods. Even so, calcium is obtained through dairy foods, including those that are low in fat, which prove to be better sources of calcium.

The average adult needs three servings a day of calcium.

Children and youth need more calcium due to all the growth spurts they experience.

As with iron, women also need more calcium during their monthly cycle as well as during pregnancy. Women need to ingest more calcium in general, due to their lower food intake.

The above information is supplied by Yonatan Kaplan PT PhD (Candidate). Director, Jerusalem Sports Medicine Institute, Lerner Sports Center, Hebrew University.

For further details, please visit, e-mail or call Yonatan at 054-463-9463.

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