Teixeira, V. H., Sousa, M., & Moreira, P. (2009). The use of nutritional supplements by elite Portuguese swimmers. A paper presented at the 14th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Oslo, Norway, June 24-27.

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Swimmers (M = 22; F = 14), belonging to the Portuguese national team, volunteered to participate in this study. Between January and March, Ss were asked to complete a questionnaire that included questions about the use of nutritional supplements, and a semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire.

The prevalence of the use of nutritional supplements was 91.7%, with a mean consumption of 3.7 nutritional supplements per swimmer. The most used supplements were sport drinks (75.8%), magnesium (60.6%), multivitamins/minerals (57.6%), proteins (27.3%) and vitamin C (21.2%), with no significant gender or age differences. The most frequent reasons for the intake of supplements were: "to improve sports performance" (57.6%), "to have more energy/to reduce fatigue" (57.6%), "to accelerate recovery" (42.4%), "to have more focus" (decidedly in the >18 years swimmers), and "to prevent/to treat diseases or injuries" (15.2%). Physicians (57.6%), coaches (30.3%), family (24.2%), and the swimmer (21.1%) were the main source of information and advice, with no statistical differences between gender and age groups. The estimated intakes for most nutrients (16 were studied) were above the normal daily recommendations. For girls 19 - 30 years (N = 4), the estimate mean ingestions of potassium (4305 mg/day), calcium (938 mg/day), folate (385 mcg/day), vitamin D (3.6 mcg/day), and vitamin E (10.8 mg/day) were under the recommendations. For boys 14 - 18 years (N = 11), the estimate mean intakes of potassium (4392 mg/day), vitamin D (4.8 mcg/day), and vitamin E (13.2 mg/day) were under the recommendations. For males 19 - 30 years (N = 11), only the estimated mean intake of vitamin E (12.9 mg/day) was under the daily recommendation.

Implication. The prevalence of the consumption of nutritional supplements was high and unjustified due to adequate nutrient intake by swimmers. The type of nutritional supplements used and their determinants were similar across gender or age groups. Diet and nutritional education could benefit elite swimmers’ performance and health.

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