Age Drives the Differences in Dietary Supplement Use in Endurance Athletes: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Cyclists, Runners, and Triathletes

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Kinesiology and Nutrition


Most athletes use dietary supplements (DS) to improve health and performance beyond what can be achieved through diet. Improvements in health and exercise performance through the use of DS are especially attractive to older athletes (OA) challenged with age-related declines. However, there are few DS shown to improve endurance performance, and the prevalence of DS in OA are unknown. Two-hundred cyclists, runners, and triathletes (females = 108; age = 39.4 ± 13.5) completed a questionnaire regarding the prevalence and type of DS currently used, in addition to variables associated with using DS such as motivation and sources of information. Overall, 78.0% of athletes reported current DS use. OA used more DS (Total DS = 4.3 ± 3.0) than younger athletes (2.7 ± 1.8, p < 0.001), with ages 40–49 and 50–59 using more DS than ages 18–29 and 30–39 (p < 0.05). The majority of athletes (53.8%) used ≥ 3 DS. Age was the only significant predictor of total DS use (p = 0.002); OA used ≥ 3 DS more than younger (p < 0.001). Specifically, more athletes 40–49 (67.5%) and 50–59 (76.2%) used ≥ 3 DS compared to 18–29 (33.3%, p = 0.003). More OA used electrolytes (p = 0.005), probiotics (p = 0.045), melatonin (p = 0.004), and vitamin D (p = 0.016) than younger athletes. Motivations to use DS were related to age and were supplement specific. Sources of DS information varied by sex more than age. Age is a significant determining factor for DS use in a sample of cyclists, runners, and triathletes. The prevalence and trends of DS warrant further investigation into the benefits and risks of DS to develop safe, targeted, and age-specific DS strategies on a recreative competitive level.

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Journal of Dietary Supplements

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