Most athletes do not benefit from extra nutritional supplements such as vitamins and minerals or sports supplements such as creatine.

Special sports nutrition products such as protein shakes are usually not necessary either.

Furthermore, the use of certain pre- and post-workout supplements can be harmful. According to the Wheel of Five, most athletes benefit more from improving their diet by eating.

Eating according to the Wheel of Five gives you enough nutrients and energy for a good sports performance. Moreover, most dietary supplements have not been proven to affect athletes positively.

Supplements may also contain dangerous or prohibited substances.

In addition to a healthy diet, some supplements can positively affect sports performance or recovery after exercise.

The sports supplements caffeine and creatine (monohydrate) can help get a little more out of sports performance.

Supplements such as beetroot juice, magnesium, beta-alanine, or sodium bicarbonate are also popular among athletes.

There is still no scientific consensus about the effect of these supplements. So there is still debate about it. Some supplements also have side effects that cause most athletes to ignore them.

Read more about the importance of nutrition coaching by Sports Nutrition Coaching for Endurance Athletes from Coach Levi or read about fact sheet on Sports and nutrition at

Good nutrition is the basis.

A multivitamin pill can never match a healthy diet. A varied diet contains many more useful substances than you can get from a pill or other supplement.

According to the Wheel of Five, you best support the body in delivering sporting performance with a good basic diet.

Supplements for Endurance Athletes are, therefore, unnecessary for most athletes, especially at a recreational level.

Exceptions for avid athletes

For intensive and (top) athletes, who train more than 3 times a week for 1 to 2 hours or more, certain supplements can help get just that little bit more out of it.

Vitamin C and sports

Extra vitamin C contributes to maintaining your resistance during and after intense physical exertion. You need to get at least 200 mg of vitamin C daily in addition to your regular diet.

Caffeine and sports

Caffeine can help endurance athletes perform better. The stimulating effect of the substance improves your stamina; you feel more energetic and less tired, and it improves alertness and focus.

Too much caffeine can also have adverse effects such as headaches, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, stomach, and intestinal complaints, restlessness, and sleeping problems.

Both the positive and negative effects differ per person. Some people are more sensitive than others.

Caffeine is naturally found in coffee, tea, and chocolate. A large cup of coffee contains around 80 milligrams of caffeine, black tea around 30 milligrams, green tea around 20 milligrams, and 30 grams of dark chocolate around 15 milligrams.

Energy drinks also contain caffeine, around 80 milligrams per can, but this is not suitable for sports. As an adult, do not take over 200 milligrams (3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight) of caffeine at one time.

This amounts to about 3-4 small cups or 2-3 large cups of coffee. For most people, this will not cause any problems under normal conditions.

Throughout the day, healthy adults can consume about 400 milligrams of caffeine per day without any negative effects.

Caffeine supplements are available. These often contain high levels of caffeine. This can cause you to consume more caffeine than is safe for your health.

Especially if, in addition to caffeine supplements, you also take (many) other products with a lot of caffeine, such as coffee, tea, or energy drinks.

In Europe, there is no legislation about the maximum amount of caffeine contained in food supplements.

Creatine and sports

Creatine can help athletes perform better during short-term maximal efforts with an interval character, such as lifting weights or during short sprints.

Your muscles get an extra energy supply. A common side effect is an increase in weight due to an increase in the amount of fluid in the body.

It is therefore important to drink enough. It can also cause stomach or intestinal complaints. Incidentally, taking extra creatine does not affect about a third (30%) of people.

What are the risks of pre- or post-workout supplements and other sports supplements?

An excessive intake of certain substances such as caffeine, vitamins, and minerals can harm your health. If you want to take supplements, do not use more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

You can find this information on the label. Using too many supplements or too high a dose of supplements can have adverse effects on your health.

What is the advice on the use of supplements by athletes?

If you want to use nutritional supplements, buy them from well-known, reliable drugstores or outlets.

We do not recommend herbal preparations because it is often unclear what they contain, and some herbs can pose health risks.

In general, you can say that no herbal preparation has a proven effect.

If you want to take caffeine supplements, ensure you don’t consume too much caffeine. Be especially careful if you use other products with a lot of caffeine in addition to the supplements, such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks.

As an adult, in any case, do not take more than about 200 milligrams of caffeine (3 milligrams per kilogram of your body weight) in one go, and no more than about 400 milligrams of caffeine per day in total.

Some sports nutrition supplements, including certain pre- and post-workout supplements, may contain substances that appear on the doping list.

They also sometimes contain too much of certain substances. At high concentrations, this can lead to health problems.

For example, DMAA (dimethylamylamine) is sometimes added to nutritional supplements. These supplements claim to help with weight loss or improve performance.

Its effect has never been proven. The substance is banned in Europe because its safety has not been established. DMAA is on the doping list.

Read more about doping on the website of the Doping Authority


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