Results showed that the professionals considered themselves well-trained (76.9%), knowledgeable (95.4%), and interested in dietary supplements (95.4%) and the majority (70.8%) agreed they would recommend dietary supplements to soccer players – higher numbers than found in previous surveys.
The authors, from Portuguese universities and the national Football Federation, conclude: “Nutritionists working with major league clubs are interested and dedicated to knowing more about dietary supplements and their applications in the specific context of elite soccer.”
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Available data suggest a high prevalence of the use of dietary supplements by elite soccer players.
In elite soccer, studies on supplement use remain limited, but existing data point out health concerns as the main reason for using these products.
Products most typically used among soccer players include caffeine, creatine, or vitamins, as well as isotonic drinks and protein shakes.
According to the authors of the new study, while benefits of supplements for soccer players' performance are documented, insights into how nutritionists manage their use are limited.
Previous studies explored supplement practices among sports nutritionists, finding a positive correlation (p < 0.008) between personal usage of dietary supplements and the recommendation of these products to athletes.
Other surveys have assessed nutrition knowledge, practices, and perceptions of nutritionists regarding dietary supplements, but as the authors note, research was focused on a clinical context.
One survey was conducted among sports health professionals (18% of which were nutritionists) working with Olympic and non-Olympic athletes, finding that sports dieticians were ranked as the most knowledgeable professionals about nutritional supplements (74%).
What’s more, nutritionists are reportedly considered among the most well-informed professionals and preferred sources of information about dietary supplements in surveys conducted among athletes.
Thus, the authors note that it is important to better understand how nutritionists’ perspectives on dietary supplements can influence use by athletes, particularly at the elite level.
A questionnaire used to describe nutritionists’ beliefs and attitudes regarding the use of dietary supplements in a clinical context was designed for the study.
The online questionnaire was addressed to nutritionists working with elite soccer teams from six European Leagues and Brazil, between November 2022 and February 2023, with 65 participants included in the statistical analysis.
Results showed that interest in dietary supplements among nutritionists was notably high, at 95.4%, surpassing results of 68% reported in previous research.
Comparing knowledge, 95.4% agreed that they are knowledgeable about dietary supplements, higher than previous results in which clinical context nutritionists reported feeling 60% knowledgeable.
70.8% of participants said they regularly recommend dietary supplements. Comparatively, a 2021 survey revealed only 39.5% of licensed dieticians reported recommending dietary supplements.
The study also found that 15.4% of nutritionists claimed to sell dietary supplements, which is also higher than previous findings.
The authors note that the unique sports nutrition context, where supplements are used for performance enhancement not just nutritional deficits or disease prevention, could explain these differences.
The authors explain that the rigorous demands of elite soccer may make nutritionists in this field more inclined to be interested and knowledgeable about supplements.
They conclude that understanding the alignment between nutritionists' recommendations and players' actual supplement use is crucial for efficacy and safety considerations.
They also that future research should delve into these aspects, stating: “We believe this will allow a better understanding of how nutritionists’ perceptions and practices impact elite soccer players’ dietary supplement usage and, consequently, their overall performance.”
Journal: Frontiers in Sports and Active Living
“Perspectives and practices of nutritionists on dietary supplements for elite soccer teams: a cross-sectional survey study.”
Authors: Rodrigo Abreu, Catarina B. Oliveira, João Brito, and Vitor H. Teixeira.