BLOG: To use or not: Suppliments
By Crispaus Onkoba | Wed 29 Jun, 2016 17:26
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A few years back when I joined rugby, the sport was pure as a new born baby with un-relative little following around the world compared to the masses who keep up with the happenings of the sort today.

The science of the sport back then was simple, it entailed a regime of training… training… and training hard, coupled with a lot of discipline and commitment. Much of the principles have been the same overtime but with a little of twists. With the increased competition in the sport, we have now settled to see some fantastic improved version of athletes that are agile, stealthier, stronger, more skilled, bulky… The upgrades list could go on and on.

The case of supplements

Key among these improvements has been the professionalism of the sport across the globe and the introduction of various tools and utilities to the players and coaches’ disposal. One of the additives that have so much been the center of discussions with regards with all this is the use of supplements among the rugby athletes.

Players are becoming stronger and bulkier by the day and others are on the ladder to catch up with the bar set in this contact sport. Most players have subscribed to the gym and following up good strength & conditioning program to align with the needs of the sport.

But the debate of the role of supplements in enhancing the performance and physique of athletes has been widely discussed all over. Especially now that we are heading to the Olympics, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is cracking the whip now more than ever, you all read the fate of Tennis Star, Maria Sharapova?

So I went over the net to delve on the grey and bright areas of the utilization of the products… I must say, I found plenty of grey than white but not to disclaim supplements. I bet society all over just has a bias for all things natural.

After an hour or so over the net reading through & various articles from the country down south, New Zealand, I gathered a few points on what might matter about the use and disuse of supplements.

So what is a supplement


According to the definitions of the term ‘Supplement’, the great internet- yes I Google-d it, describes it as something that completes/enhance/reinforces something else when added to it. In nutrition, supplements are intended to provide nutrients that may otherwise not be consumed in sufficient quantities- Wikipedia, and can be in form of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs or a combination of all that.

To use or not to use.

Over the sites I went through, I noticed the tendency to encourage the consumption of whole meals and the application of healthy dietary/nutrition habits as opposed to the use of supplements. In fact most of them were discouraging their use, albeit not directly.

With the errant use of the commodity over time, there has been need to regulate and control the use of the same, the world over. Players have been nabbed by the law and faced various punishments for consuming what they thought was a supplement. Only they didn’t know it contained banned substances.

A case is recorded of one amateur player in Australia that ordered supplements online and paid for them, only for his shipment to be confiscated at the port by the Immigration Department since it contained banned substances. He was warned of ever repeating the habit again but the Australian Rugby Union would not relent in dispensing punishment, the player was banned for 24months (2years)… Check this: He paid, he didn’t use them and he now has to sit in the stands for 2 years!


In Ireland, for example, young players are encouraged to stick to a healthier natural lifestyle for optimum performance through good eating and drinking (hydration) habits. 

You might want to check out the program later on, do click for much more detailed information.

In another example, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) & the NZR Players Association released a series of resources on the use of nutritional supplements. The resources emphasized on eating fresh, whole foods as part of a stable diet as well as outlining the risks of using nutritional supplements by young players. 

And if you click on and read on you will realize that in the NZ they insist on food first before incorporating supplements.

Perceived physique.

In most cases here at home, many players take the supplements to attain the perceived physique they ‘Think’ is needed to play rugby. And many have gone the full length to take the supps without proper consultation and considerations. Lucky our country’s systems have not enabled us to asses & evaluate our local teams and institutions on the use and abuse of the products. One day if an international body decides to set camp and do autonomous research I wouldn’t be shocked with what they find out.

Aside with the debate though I gathered a few reasonable points in my ‘assignment’ regarding the matter that should be of benefit to all the players, coaches, gym instructors and many more out there.

1.Ensure your supplement contains no banned substance, always ensure it has been batch-tested for contamination.

Keep rugby clean

All responsibility falls to the players, despite the pressure from your coach, trainer or gym instructor to use certain supplements. You, as a player, will be liable if found to have banned substance.

You can check a number of tested supplements on

2.If taking supplements as a team ensure there is one member responsible for managing the team’s supplement program.

But again as a player, always do a background check on what you are given, of course there is the tendency to assume everyone is playing their role, but you can never be too sure. Perhaps the person in charge someday can wake up on the wrong side and misread labels and you end up consuming something wrong. Always remember point number 1.

3. Seek advice from professional(s) sport nutritionist.

Majority of us refer to the internet for resources on rugby training regimes and what not. Pay attention to your diet, a qualified nutritionist can help customize your meal plans and shopping list. Hardly can you find two players with the same exact needs and objectives, so before you spend your money on some of the whey protein you saw your friend take know your needs.

Those things are damn expensive you better not get it wrong!

4. Never take or use someone else’s supplement.

A friend can give a spoonful or two of his/her scoop pre and post work out at the gym but unless you two purchased it together it’s not worth the risk. Kindly refer to point number 1 to be 100% sure.

5. Always know the risks and benefits.

Of course a majority of the benefits are outlined very well at the package for you to see and read it’s the risk they hardly talk and outline for you.

Some supplements can be hazardous to your health since they increase the heart rate and heat stress. They consequently increase blood pressure whilst others cause damage to the kidneys. This is aside with some of them containing banned substances.

My idea on the use of the supplements is that, unless you are under a fully professional and/or semi-professional set up of high performance, where they are batch-tested and their use monitored by qualified sports nutritionist. Stick to healthy foods and healthy habits.

The scenario gets complicated when you are solo, always seek professional help and be committed to sticking to the program accorded to you by the person you consulted, if at all he has proved to be of benefit.

But all in all, the debate whether to use or not will proceed in society always, know your needs, acquit yourself with necessary info and as much as you can before you delve into a decision.


Crispaus Onkoba
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