1 Prevalence of nutritional supplement and performance enhancing drug use in recreational exercisers

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Abstract

Nutritional supplement use in elite athletes is widespread despite a lack of evidence supporting beneficial effects of many of these substances. Little is known, however, about the use of nutritional supplements or performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in non-elite recreational exercisers. In this study, 114 regular exercisers voluntarily and anonymously completed a basic questionnaire outlining their use, type, reasons for use as well as purchase and information source regarding nutritional supplements. Additionally, participants were asked if they had been offered PED and, if so, what they had been offered. In total, 72% of participants indicated that they regularly used nutritional supplements. Of these, 12% reported taking only one supplement with 76% reporting taking 2–4 supplements and 12% reporting taking five or more supplements. Protein or amino acid powder (74%), sports drinks (69%), creatine (46%) and multivitamins (46%) were the most commonly reported supplements. 90% of supplement users reported multiple reasons for use with providing energy (67%), improving performance (62%) and increasing strength (57%) the main reasons given. The internet (65%) was the most common place supplements were purchased from followed by a nutrition shop in person (55%). The internet was the most common place (76%) that information regarding supplements was obtained followed by friends or family (36%) and the product label (30%). Of the 114 respondents, 28% reported having been offered PEDs with 91% of these being offered anabolic steroids. In total, only 7 respondents (6%) reported having taken PEDs. The results of this study suggest that the use of nutritional supplements is very common amongst non-elite recreational exercisers. Many people obtain both information and products from the internet which increases the risk of inaccurate information and the chances of contaminated supplements being purchased.

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