Research on Nutritional Supplementation

 

Have you ever wondered why protein as well as other supplements often get a “bad rap?”

Sometimes it’s deserved. But, quite often supplementation is unfairly maligned by a research study.

Research conducted on nutritional supplementation can be biased or just plain wrong.

 

The First Hint…

 

Many coaches, trainers and athletes began to question the research on nutritional supplements about 20 years ago.  In their eyes, some of the analysis on supplementation seemed to be incorrect, inaccurate or totally disingenuous.  

 

After a little digging, a few things became apparent.  The research results, weren’t necessarily wrong.  But, quite often, what was wrong was the design of the research study, itself.

 

The researchers were asking the wrong people the wrong questions.

 

An Example

 

Here’s a gross exaggeration to illustrate the point.

 

Imagine the researchers gather a bunch of average drivers and put them into Formula One Race Cars — which, of course, none of them know how to drive — and then declare the cars are “no good” because they do NOT help people improve their driving.

 

It Happens in our Space

 

This same type of thing happens when testing nutritional supplements. The researchers often test the wrong audience.  In our case, its the mass consumer.  

 

Research on supplementation rarely addresses the nutritional needs of the athlete or fitness enthusiast.  And, even then, like in the case of protein supplementation, the premise is incorrect  —  thus affecting and invalidating the entire research project. 

 

Protein Research

 

For example, a recent protein study concluded “protein supplementation does NOT enhance athletic performance.”

 

Well, right off the bat, “athletic performance” is NOT the role of protein. 

 

Among competitive athletes and fitness enthusiasts the role of protein supplementation is muscle recovery.  The ability to get up tomorrow and do it again.  This is why most athletes supplement with protein directly after training or post event.  To recover. 

 

Even if the performance did improve, it would most likely be due to better technique, increased training or something else totally unrelated to protein consumption.

 

A better research study would have put everyone on protein supplementation as a “control” and then abruptly terminate intake for half the group as a way to determine the effect of muscle recovery with or without protein. 

 

Athletic performance has nothing to do with supplementation.  It has everything to do with proper baseline fuelingsleep and training techniques.

 

Glucosamine Too!

 

In the case of glucosamine, a recent research study reported that glucosamine and chondroitan “do not reduce joint pain or have an impact on narrowing of joint space.” 

 

Most good glucosamine products include an anti-inflammatory like MSN and other ingredients to address some joint pain.  But, glucosamine and chondroitan, by themselves, do not provide pain relief.

 

And narrowing of joint space?  I’ve never actually seen that claim on a glucosamine product.

 

Once again, these researchers most likely tested a completely different universe of people with very little blood flow to their joints, tendons, ligaments and bones. 

 

This is important because blood (the circulatory system) is the delivery system for glucosamine.  This is another reason why physical therapists put rehab patients on stationary cycles after knee surgery.  It’s not just range of motion.  The activity also helps get blood to the joint to help with the recovery.  

 

If there’s no blood flow to the muscle tissue there is NO delivery of the product.  Most athletes, because of the very nature of their lifestyle have excellent blood flow and do quite well with glucosamine

 

So, the next time you read a research study bashing nutritional supplements — take it with a grain of salt. 

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