Whether you’re a skilled athlete, a member of the army, a bodybuilder, or an avid gym-goer, you’re likely to take some supplement to boost athletic performance.
Compared to the general US population, athletes are more prone to take ergogenic aids. These are dietary supplements advertised as:
- Enhancing endurance/strength
- Boosting fitness performance
- Increasing exercise tolerance
- Completing exercise goals more quickly
Athletes use these supplements to prepare for training, help with rehabilitation, and minimize injury risk. But these supplements are not reserved for elite athletes. They will help you improve your performance and achieve your personal fitness goals.
In this article, we include information on five supplements that can help athletes overcome fatigue and perform at their best:
If you’ve recently visited a health food shop, you’ve likely come across some protein supplements.
When we discuss protein supplements’ athletic advantages, we refer to protein sources containing all 9 essential amino acids. These essential amino acids are protein building blocks that our body can not produce on its own. So we have to consume them from the food we eat.
All of these amino acids are also essential to the effectiveness of protein supplements. And it has been found that all 9 must be present for protein supplements to improve muscle mass and strength.
Whey and casein proteins are better choices as they contain all nine essential amino acids. Soy protein, pea protein, and other plant-based proteins do not contain all nine proteins. So, you should note this when you use this type of protein for supplementation purposes.
How & When to Take Protein supplements
Protein supplements are most beneficial immediately after exercise. You should take an amount of 1 gram per kilogram of your bodyweight for this time period.
Protein supplementation is safe, and there is currently no upper limit. But, supplementation above 2 g per kg (or 2.20lbs) is not required.
2. Caffeine Supplement for Athletes
Do you know that a coffee cup can help increase your efficiency in endurance activities? It is true, and the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) agrees.
The ISSN published a statement of position on the use of caffeine for performance, which included the following statements:
- Caffeine effectively improves sports performance in trained athletes when consumed in low-to-moderate doses (~3-6 mg/kg). Overall, there is no further improvement in performance when used in higher doses (≥ 9 mg/kg).
- Caffeine is ergogenic for sustained full endurance exercise. And it is extremely effective for time-testing performance.
- Caffeine supplementation is useful for high-intensity training, including team sports such as soccer and rugby, both of which are classified as intermittent exercises over a longer period of time.
So what does this mean?
This means that caffeine works if we have around 3-6 mg per kilogram of body weight before exercise. However, in amounts more than this, caffeine does not have a stronger effect. There appears to be a limit on its effectiveness.
Also, caffeine is ideal for athletes who are participating in both endurance events, such as running or team sports such as soccer. When taken before such activities, it can increase performance.
Too much caffeine, however, is not only ineffective but can also lead to adverse effects.
The Office of Dietary Supplements reports that when pure caffeine is consumed at rates of 10-14 g (about 150-200 mg/kg), the following can occur:
- And arrhythmia.
These rates are difficult to achieve with caffeine coffee alone but are possible by using caffeine supplements.
Betaine was first used to overcome muscle weakness in the effects of polio. In the case of vaccination, polio use is no longer necessary. And it has since been researched for its ability to improve physical performance.
When tested on individuals who completed a weight lifting program, betaine improved body composition, arm size, bench press workability, and power. However, it did not affect the strength of the research participants.
Betaine was also studied in non-athletes. In a study with untrained females of collegiate age, betaine was shown to lower fat mass when followed by a resistance training program.
What does that mean?
When combined with exercise, betaine can reduce fat mass, increase lean mass, and increase total strength.
Short-term use of 2-5 grams for 15 days has been proven to be healthy. And there are no reported major side effects of supplementation. While these clinical trials are encouraging, there are many conflicting results for its use as an ergogenic aid.
More significant randomized control trials are needed to determine the exact function and dose at which betaine can increase performance.
4. Iron supplements for athletes
Iron deficiency is common in athletes and can have an impact on performance, according to some studies.
Although it can occur in males, this deficiency is more common in females, especially in endurance sports. The Swiss study found that the rate of iron deficiency in teenage female athletes was up to 52%.
Low iron levels can cause multiple adverse symptoms in female athletes. These include a reduction in endurance and an improvement in the body’s amount of energy.
People can take supplements to reduce these effects, but only if dietary changes can not satisfy their needs. They also note that people on vegetarian or vegan diets should take extra care to ensure that they meet their required regular iron consumption, as plant-based iron is less available to the body.
You should talk to the doctor before taking iron supplements. And make sure to ask for a blood test to check your iron levels. Taking too much iron can make you uncomfortable and even dangerous side effects.
5. Calcium and vitamin D supplements for athletes
Calcium and vitamin D help the body develop and sustain healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. These supplements can help athletes maintain muscle mass and reduce injury risk, such as bone fractures.
Calcium is available in several foods, including:
- Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
- Fortified non-dairy milk, such as soya milk
- Dark green vegetables
- Soft bonefish, including sardines and salmon
The Bottom Line
There is a variety of vitamins and supplements on the market that could be of potential benefit. Even the scope of this article is limited. These are only the top 5 I would suggest for a general endurance athlete. Talk to your helpful pharmacist, naturopath, or coach on what they would suggest for more personal advice.
In the meantime, fill your plate with all the colors of the rainbow (preferably with fruit and vegetables, not a box of skittles), keep practicing, and being awesome!