National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Evaluation of Dietary Supplements for Performance Nutrition


To help athletic trainers promote a “food-first” philosophy to support health and performance, understand federal and sport governing body rules and regulations regarding dietary supplements and banned substances, and become familiar with reliable resources for evaluating the safety, purity, and efficacy of dietary supplements.


The dietary supplement industry is poorly regulated and takes in billions of dollars per year. Uneducated athletes need to gain a better understanding of the safety, eligibility, and efficacy concerns associated with choosing to take dietary supplements. The athletic trainer is a valuable athletic team member who can help in the educational process. In many cases, athletic trainers are asked to help evaluate the legality, safety, and efficacy of dietary supplements. For this position statement, our mission is to provide the athletic trainer with the necessary resources for these tasks.


Proper nutrition and changes in the athlete’s habitual diet should be considered first when improved performance is the goal. Athletes need to understand the level of regulation (or lack thereof) governing the dietary supplement industry at the international, federal, state, and individual sport- participation levels. Athletes should not assume a product is safe simply because it is marketed over the counter. All products athletes are considering using should be evaluated for purity (ie, truth in labeling), safety, and efficacy.


  • The term dietary supplement represents a wide spectrum of products, including fortified whole foods, herbal products, and ergogenic aids and products designed to improve work or performance
  • When attempting to improve an athlete’s performance consider proper nutrition before adding supplements
  • AT should establish a support team that includes a registered dietitian or other expert in nutrition
  • Athletes need to understand the levels of regulation governing the supplement industry
    • International, federal, state and individual sport levels can all have different regulations
  • Athletes should not assume any product is safe simply because it is sold over the counter
  • Dietary supplement labels do not require 3rd party verification
  • Dietary supplements are not well regulated and may contain banned substances
  • Current federal law does not require manufacturers or distributors to provide evidence of purity, safety, or efficacy before products are sold
  • Labeling requirements for dietary supplements are similar to those for food products
  • Athletes need to be educated about the lack of regulation because they are ultimately responsible for what they ingest
  • ATs should be aware of resources to identify supplements (or the individual components), the quantity of active ingredients and the mixture of active and inactive ingredients supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence relating to product efficacy
  • See position statement Appendix 2 for list of resources


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