The 5 W’s of Ergogenic Aids in College Athletics


by Matt Weik

When it comes to supplements in the college ranks, things can get a little dicey. You can take this, you can’t take that — your school can supply you with this product but not that product. What does all of this mean and how can you find a brand you can trust to help supply you with products without you getting hit by sanctions due to the product having a banned or impermissible substance in it? This article will help shed some light on the topic answering the 5 W’s to help you make the right choices.


This is a two part question. Who are YOU and what BRAND can you trust? Let’s start with you personally. Are you an athlete playing college athletics or a high school athlete?

If you’re a high school athlete, you aren’t regulated like what schools are in college athletics. So if you’re in high school, while I still don’t recommend taking any supplements, the couple that I would see the only benefit in taking would be a multivitamin and protein powder. The multivitamin will help get you the vitamins and minerals that you probably aren’t getting from your everyday foods you’re eating. The protein powder will help you maintain and build lean muscle mass. I’m sure you’re on a weight lifting program at your school and having a shake after your workouts would be beneficial to help your muscles recover.

If you’re in college this is where things get interesting. There’s a list of permissible and impermissible ingredients that you need to be aware of (these can be found on the website by searching for “dietary supplements”). While your school can only give you certain products to fit the guidelines of the NCAA, you CAN use products outside of what they offer you (which I personally wouldn’t recommend unless you know the ins and outs of the rules and regulations with supplements).

Some brands to consider would be:
• Cytosport Collegiate Muscle Milk
• Gatorade
• Honey Stinger
• Dual Fuel
• Rockin Refuel


Another question to ask yourself is what you personally need the supplement for. Are you looking to recover faster intra workout or game? Maybe you want something for after your workouts or game to help you recover faster to prepare for the next day? Help preserve your lean muscle mass from being broken down by your strenuous workouts/practices/games? Or maybe your busy class schedule doesn’t allow you to get to the cafeteria several times during the day to take in the nutrients your body needs so you need something to throw in your bag and take with you to class. There are products to fit all of these needs.


So where can you get collegiate compliant products? Online might be your best bet due to pricing. Sites online seem to have a great selection, great pricing, and incredibly quick shipping right to your door. You can also find products at your sports nutrition stores but these types of products might be difficult to find since they are a “specialty product” to fit the NCAA rules and regulations regarding supplements.


Timing is everything with supplementation. That said below is a quick breakdown on when to take certain products.

Preworkout/game: The best thing to take during this time is a product with carbohydrates either in a liquid or solid form (shake or bar if you can’t take in a whole food source).

Intra workout/game: It’s ideal to maintain hydration during this time. Water is a must no matter what else you are looking to utilize during this time. Other than water, taking in a product that has electrolytes/sodium/potassium is ideal. A liquid form is the best choice for this instance since liquids are absorbed and utilized by the body must faster than taking in a whole food source.

Post workout/game: Timing post workout/game is critical to help you recover from what your body just endured. A liquid would be ideal for the same reasons as intra, as it will be absorbed much faster and will allow the body to soak up the nutrients it needs to help recover. It is key to take in your post workout supplementation within 45 minutes of ending your workout/game.

Anytime: Now this isn’t your free pass to use something any time of any time of day. “Anytime” means you can utilize these types of products (bars/shakes) anytime you can’t get in a whole food meal. The example given earlier is when your busy class schedule doesn’t allow you to hit up the cafeteria multiple times during the day to make sure your getting in enough calories/macros to fit your needs. For instance a compliant nutrition bar could be used in the middle of the afternoon between your lunch and dinner to help you meet your daily needs if you didn’t grab anything from the cafe to take with you for between classes. Another example of timing would be to ingest something prior to a workout so you aren’t hitting the gym while your body is on “E” (empty). Trying to get through a workout without anything in your system is like a high performance car trying to make it through a race without any gasoline — you won’t get very far and it won’t be as productive.


I think we pretty much covered this in the above sections where I explained why you need certain products and when but we’ll recap. Sports nutrition products (supplements/ergogenic aids) can be very beneficial if used correctly and timed correctly. Another key factor is knowing what you’re taking and why. Don’t buy something just because you see an ad in a magazine saying it’s the best product out there (because it’s not — it’s marketing). Most of the time the products that you see in fitness magazines don’t even apply to you and what you’re trying to accomplish, so stop drooling over their over-hyped claims.

The only products you should be interested in are multivitamins, protein/carb blends (in the form of a shake/bar), and recovery products that contain electrolytes/sodium/potassium such as coconut water which is a natural source of all those.

Hopefully this shed some light on the topic of supplements in college athletics and answered some questions you might have as a college athlete. Train hard, train smart, and finish strong!