With the popularity of disability sport from grassroots to elite level on the rise, further understanding of the dietary practices and supplement use of athletes at all levels is warranted.

This is especially so as the specific needs of each disability can mean there is a greater prevalence of supplement use in disability sport. Research is also urgently needed as the current recommendations (type, frequency and dosage) for supplement use in disability sport are based on data from able-bodied athletes and cannot be directly transferred to athletes with a disability.

The main objective of this study is to understand the habits and perceptions of athletes with a physical impairment towards nutritional supplements and in particular their attitudes towards the use of caffeine.

Following on from this, the study will examine the influence of caffeine on upper-body, sprint, short-term, high-intensity and endurance performance.

Institutions / organisations and researchers

Loughborough University

Swiss Paraplegic Centre

  • Dr Phillip Watson
  • Jeannette Crosland
  • Prof Brett Smith 
  • Dr Claudio Perret


  • 58% of athletes with a physical or visual impairment reported the use of one or more nutritional supplements (NS) in the previous six months. The types of NS used were similar to able-bodied athletes (most commonly protein, sports drinks, carbohydrate supplements and multivitamins) and were used for similar reasons (energy, recovery and immunity).
  • A concerning finding was that 9% of athletes surveyed reported experiencing negative side-effects from the use of NS, which may be in part due to following able-bodied dosage and timing guidelines.
  • Findings suggest that caffeine does appear to positively influence upper body exercise performance during short-term, high-intensity and endurance tests in certain individuals with and without physical impairments. Based on the research, the magnitude of caffeine’s ergogenic effects are potentially influenced by training status and spinal cord injury level.