In this study, we determined the prevalence of nutritional supplements (NS) usage, the type of supplements used, the reasons for usage, and the source of nutritional advice among Portuguese athletes. Two hundred ninety-two athletes (68 % male, 12 - 37 years old) from 13 national sports federations completed a questionnaire that sought information on socio-demographics, sports data, and NS usage. Most athletes (66 %) consumed NS, with a median consumption of 4 supplements per athlete. The most popular supplements included multivitamins/minerals (67 %), sport drinks (62 %), and magnesium (53 %). Significant differences for the type of NS consumed were found between gender and age groups and the number of weekly training hours. Most athletes used NS to accelerate recovery (63 %), improve sports performance (62 %), and have more energy/reduce fatigue (60 %). Athletes sought advice on supplementation mainly from physicians (56 %) and coaches (46 %). Age and gender were found to influence reasons for use and the source of information. Reasons for NS usage were supported scientifically in some cases (e. g., muscle gain upon protein supplementation), but others did not have a scientific basis (e. g., use of glutamine and magnesium). Given the high percentage of NS users, there is an urgent need to provide athletes with education and access to scientific and unbiased information, so that athletes can make assertive and rational choices about the utilization of these products.
Keywords: coaches; fatigue; performance; physicians; recovery; sport drinks; vitamins and minerals.