The Reality of Sports Supplements 

In youth sports 

For young athletes today, the temptation of sports supplements is everywhere. These products are found easily online and in almost any store. The reality is, their popularity is only growing. Because supplements are so readily available, coaches and parents should know the risks involved and precautions they can take.  
A Short Lesson on Supplements

Sports supplements are technically dietary supplements. Like the name suggests, they’re intended to supplement a person’s nutritional diet or address a nutritional deficiency. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements on a post-market basis. This means they’re taken off the market only after they’ve shown to cause adverse health effects. It’s up to the manufacturer to be upfront about a product’s safety, effectiveness and quality. 

Labels Don’t Tell the Whole Story

The truth is, supplement labels have at times been inaccurate or misleading.  Some products out there are contaminated and may contain potentially harmful substances or illegal ingredients such as:  
Anabolic steroids
Heavy metals

While not all supplements may pose a problem, young athletes may unknowingly take these supplements without realizing the potential health consequences.

Look for the Certified for Sport® mark and Download the NSF for Sport App 
With thousands of supplements on the market, how can you as a parent recognize the good from the bad?  Look for products that have been Certified for Sport® by NSF International, an independent third party. The Certified for Sport® program is the best way to protect against potentially harmful supplements because of the rigorous testing and facility inspections that certified products must undergo. Lack of certification doesn’t necessarily mean a product is bad, but using it is a bit of a guessing game. Knowing the product has been tested for contaminants, such as toxins and athletic banned substances, provide peace of mind. 

The NSF for Sport App 

With thousands of products out there, it would be unrealistic to expect a coach or parent to research every single dietary supplement. One simple solution: Look for products certified by a third-party testing program like NSF Certified for Sport®. Better yet, use the app.  

The NSF Certified for Sport® app is free and lets you search for safer supplements by name, UPC code, product type and goals. It looks for products with the NSF Certified for Sport® mark for you. Having the mark is a sign that a supplement has gone through a rigorous testing process that:    

Tests for over 270 substances banned by pro sports leagues and anti-doping organizations
Confirms ingredient levels are listed correctly
Ensures there are no unsafe levels of contaminants
Audits manufacturing facilities for quality and safety twice a year

For more peace of mind, you should know that NSF Certified for Sport® is recommended by major professional sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, PGA and LPGA. It’s also the only independent certification program recognized by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and is required by Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Canadian Football League.

Play It Smart

If you’re the coach or parent of a young athlete, do your homework about safer sports supplements. Talk to a registered dietitian if you can. Have a conversation with your player or child. Using supplements can be a tempting decision. NSF Certified for Sport® can help make it a safer one. To learn more visit

NSF International ( is an independent, global organization that facilitates standards development, and tests and certifies products for the food, water, health sciences and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment. Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide. With operations in more than 175 countries, NSF International is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on Food Safety, Water Quality and Indoor Environment.