By Nico de Villiers
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Supplement usage for rugby players has often lead to heated debates amongst trainers, coaches, nutritionist and players. The argument spectrum range from supplements is a waste of time and money to without it you will never be big and strong.

There have been many trends in the S&C world claiming to be the ultimate method. We have seen a hype around kettlebells, Swiss balls, TRX, Core, SSL and GPS just to name few. The one thing that they all have in common is that its mere training tools and a variation to what already exists.

A supplement is no difference, its mere one of the tools used within the recovery process. In fact, the name says it all-SUPPLEMENT!

So where does it fit in on the spectrum of no use to increase performance?

Supplements have no use if:

  1. You don’t get >8hour sleep. There is some evidence that shows that athletes getting less than 8hour sleep per night are 1.7 more likely to pick up an injury. Other side effects of lack of sleep are:
    • Energy stores decrease (Decrease muscle glycogen resynthesize)
    • Immune defence system(Increase sensibility to illness and infection)
    • Muscle recovery (Decrease protein synthesis)
    • Central nervous system (Alter memory and motor learning)
  2.  Your nutritional plan is not perfect 6 out of 7 days of the week
    • Regular meals during the day (5-6)
    • Use all 3 sources of energy (protein, carbohydrates, fats) from non processed sources
    • Sufficient vitamins from fresh fruits and veggies
    • 3-5 litres of water
    • Limited alcohol intake
  3. It does not fit with your training goal
    • If your goal is to increase body weight, you probably should not be using any fat burner or low carb smoothies
    • If your goal is losing weight then creatine or any type of mass builder should not be in your gym bag.
  4. There is no scientific evidence to show that the product will help you achieved your goal.
    • You can find a nice summary of some of the most common supplements and their scientific  evidence here
  5.  It contains banned substances
    • In 2011  two international players tested positive for a banned substance that they got from the regular supplement use that they thought was safe. Despite what supplement companies say, not all their product is tested to ensure is clean. if you want to make sure the supplements you are using have been tested for possible banned substances you can go to Informed-Sport and check it out.

So if you have good sleeping habits, got your nutrition right (90% of the time) and have selected the right product with sufficient evidence for your training goal, you are eligible for adding supplements to your recovery plan

From my experience, I have seen many top players at the International level that have never touch supplements in their lives. Vigorously following a good program and having excellent recovery habits is what will boost your performance. Supplementation is only (if any) a small piece in the puzzle.

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