New Nutritional Supplement Interpretation

The national office recently published an updated interpretation pertaining to nutritional supplement. After the Autonomy group adopted a proposal to allow protein powder in the winter of 2017, an updated version of this interpretation was published to provide some additional context to “protein powders” and what to watch for.  See below.

Nutritional Supplements (I)

 August 11, 2017

The committee confirmed that it is not permissible for an institution to provide any nutritional supplement to its student-athletes, unless the supplement is included in one of the five classes identified specifically in Bylaw 16.5.2-(g) (i.e., carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks, energy bars, carbohydrate boosters, protein supplements and vitamins and minerals).  The following is a list of nutritional supplements/ingredients as developed by the NCAA Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports Committee.  The list is not exhaustive but should assist institutions in determining the types of nutritional supplements that may be provided to student-athletes:

Permissible Not Permissible*
  • Calorie replacement drinks.
  • Carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement drinks.
  • Energy bars.
  • Protein supplements (e.g., protein powder)
  • Vitamins and minerals.


  • Amino acids (including amino acid chelates).
  • Chondroitin. v 1
  • Chrysin
  • CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)
  • Creatine/creatine-containing compounds.
  • Fish oil.
  • Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid).
  • Ginkgo biloba.
  • Ginseng.
  • Glucosamine.
  • Glycerol. v 2
  • Green tea.
  • HMB.
  • Carnitine.
  • Melatonin.
  • MSM (Methylsulfonyl methane).
  • Tribulus.
  • Yohimbe.

It is permissible for an institution to provide any supplement to a student-athlete for medical purposes, provided such substances are provided by a licensed medical doctor to treat a specific, diagnosed medical condition (as opposed to prescribing them for preventative reasons).

Glycerine or glycerol as a binding ingredient in a supplement product is permissible.

Additionally, it is not permissible for an institution to provide a nutritional supplement to student-athletes if:

a. The nutritional supplement includes any impermissible ingredient;

b. The nutritional supplement lists any parts of protein separately (e.g., amino acid); or

c. The nutritional supplement lists a “proprietary protein” or “protein blend.” This is not protein from a whole food source, but rather a mixture created by the manufacturer, and in most instances, includes impermissible supplement ingredients.

Finally, it is not permissible for an institution or an institutional staff member to sell or arrange the sale of impermissible supplements to student-athletes.

[References:  NCAA Division I Bylaw (nutritional supplements) and 07/26/2000 official interpretation, Item No. a, which has been archived]