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June 2013

Survey: Supplements and Energy Drinks Popular Among Athletes

A survey has found that many college students use energy drinks, dietary supplements, and prescription medications to enhance their athletic performance within the last year.

The rate of use of performance-enhancing substances is well-described in professional athletes. In the current study, the researchers set out to explore the use of these products among college students for the purpose of athletic performance enhancement. The team conducted online questionnaires to collect data from students attending two- and four-year colleges, technical schools, or online courses during the study period. The respondents voluntarily registered to answer questions between December 2010 and August 2011. They reported on participation in athletics and whether they used energy drinks, dietary supplements, and prescription medications during the last year to improve their performance. The researchers analyzed the data from October 2011 through January 2012.

Of the survey participations, 462 college students reported participating in sports. A total of 397 of these individuals reported using energy drinks, dietary supplements, or prescription medications to improve their athletic performance. More than 80 percent said that they used energy drinks, while 64 percent used dietary supplements and 53 percent used prescription drugs. The rate of use was highest among intercollegiate athletes, followed by those who took part in club and intramural activities.

The researchers concluded that these survey results suggest a high rate of use of energy drinks, dietary supplements, and prescription medications among this population for athletic enhancement. Further study is needed in this area.

Many integrative therapies have been evaluated for use in enhancing athletic performance. There is strong scientific evidence supporting the use of creatine for this purpose. Although numerous others have been studied, including bee pollen, ginkgo, and ginseng, there is unclear or conflicting evidence behind these treatments.

For more information about athletic performance enhancement, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Hoyte CO, Albert D, Heard KJ. The use of energy drinks, dietary supplements, and prescription medications by United States college students to enhance athletic performance. J Community Health. 2013 Jun;38(3):575-80. doi: 10.1007/s10900-013-9653-5. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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