Nutritional Quackery

Nutritional Quackery

More often than not, people want to hear things that are too good to be true, and most of the time the false information plays on the human's emotions. Nutritional quackery is one of the most successful topics in stores, books, and online. Individuals that are consumed by fitness and athletics often believe that there is a magical alternative diet or supplement to the hard work that would be put into a gym or training with a coach. Athletes who promote supplements, send a message out to their fans that supplements provide a sound diet that amplifies performance. In all reality, it’s the hard work during those long training hours, and a proper nutritious diet (whole foods) and sleep that keeps the athlete going and successful. Reputable health care professionals such as registered dietitians, medicals doctors, and nutritional scientist are the backbone of proven science, and should always be consulted with during supplement intake.

Susceptible Athletes

Active individuals including athletes, like to embrace the idea that more is better, and that most supplements are worth a try, especially if quackery products up an athlete's chance of winning. Some people think that taking extra vitamins a day, will likely up their chances of being healthier, and less susceptible to disease or illness. Several people that work in the supplement industry are taught to push supplements rather than natural whole foods to make money. Athletes must be aware of the concepts behind supplements and nutritional quackery. Common nutritional products in the health industry are advertised among popular athletes that make the product more appealing to the public eye. This results in the product becoming popular in the athletic and fitness community and drives individuals to think the products are safe and effective because famous athletes are using them. This type of thinking is problematic for several reasons.

Supplement Intake

Supplement and nutritional intake should be extremely important to exercise physiologist, coaches, psychologist, and sports nutritionist, “especially since the emergence of athletic and health consumerism is a significant factor to improving sports and wellness, respectively” (Boone, T, 2004, para. 3). Not all products that are sold online and in stores are backed by nutrition research. Athletes need to understand the knowledge when purchasing a supplement and to ask “what research shows the need for that specific company's product, and why their product is better than natural food?”

Supplement Questioning

Quackery supplement products are sold everyday to starving individuals who seek out cheap professionals online, to educate and advise on health, fitness, and nutrition. Sports nutritionist should advise their athletes on what to look for when coming across a potential nutritional supplement. Understand the credentials behind the company, and make sure the supplements are backed by research and science. Consider these questions:

Are whole foods omitted when taking these supplements? Are the supplements offering the recommended daily percentage of minerals and vitamins needed for just a regular person, or are they recommended for athletes? Does this company have a special test that performs a nutritional test for athletes and non-athletes (typically these test are only performed by RD or MD). Finally, why would an active individual benefit from taking nutritional supplements, opposed to eating natural whole foods (in which humans have been consuming from the beginning of time).


Nutritional ergogenic aids refers to substances that enhance performance from nutrients or metabolic by-products of nutrients, food (plant) extracts, or substances that are found in foods (caffeine, creatine, etc.) that are more concentrated than natural whole foods (Benardot, 2012). Companies that sell specific ergogenic aids target specific athletes focusing on their strength and power, or aerobic endurance abilities. Research has proven both positive and negative potential in performance of athletes that do take supplements by various vendors. Most by-products refer to their supplement as “alternative medicine” and most often, these supplements are legitimately unproven and ineffective treatments. Several athletes are uneducated and or misguided over supplement use, and often times swarm to supplements from popularity. If their teammates are taken them, why not do the same! Sports nutritionist need to educate their athletes on the legality of ergogenic products, and clarify that a lot of products that we think are natural, are actually laced with several banned substances, which can result in an athlete being disqualified from sport.


Benardot, D. (2012). Advanced sports nutrition (2nd ed). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Boone, T. (2004, January). Athletics, Quackery, and Exercise Physiology. Professionalization of Exercise Physiology, 7(1). Retrieved from