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Supplements fad

'Athletes quite educated about supplements'

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With food supplements pilloried as the villain in the country's latest doping scandal, a top sports medicine expert feels the use - rather, the abuse - of supplements is now a fad among the new generation and that the latest episode has brought a bad name to supplements.

According to Shashikant Goswami, who heads the sports science department at Bangalore's SAI South Centre, several sportspersons think it is difficult to excel without food supplements and are also under the wrong impression that everyone needs to include food supplements in their diet.

"It is a very big industry and it can't survive catering just to the few thousands of sportspersons in the country. Aggressive advertising has ensured that it has become a fashion and we have several top stars promoting different brands, " Goswami says.

The SAI official feels only those athletes who are deficient in nutrition need to take food supplements. "What we have observed during screening, normally at the start of a camp, is that our athletes, especially women, have high fat content, and so they have to be put on fat burners. We have also detected hemoglobin deficiency and such persons are put on a special diet, " he says.

Goswami, who has written extensively on sports nutrition, explains that supplements would be effective only if taken after detecting the deficiency. "As it is nearly impossible to test each and every athlete, the practice is to provide supplements according to their daily routine. For example, an endurance athlete needs more carbohydrates, vitamins and anti-oxidants while those in power events need proteins, " he explains.

Goswami also ridicules the argument of some athletes that they had little idea about the varied food supplements : "Most of them have a better idea (about the banned substances) than us. They are not happy if we don't give them supplements, " he adds.

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