Five Fitness Supplements to Add to your Routine

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Although regular exercise and a healthy diet should be all you need to reach your fitness goals, you may be looking for more, something to support you on your journey. However, with so many different supplements on the market, it isn’t easy to know where to start. Which type of protein shake is best? Should you eat protein bars? What about vitamins? Instead of wasting money by trial and error, we’ll take you through the five best fitness supplements backed by science.

What are Fitness Supplements?

As stated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a supplement is any product that aims to provide additional nutritional value to your daily diet. Supplements are available as edibles, powders, drinks, tablets or capsules.

How They Work

Supplements don’t replicate enough of the nutrients found in whole foods, so they shouldn’t be used to replace food. However, they do contain nutrients that can support our diet in areas that it may be lacking. There are four types of supplements, including herbs and botanicals (like rosemary or turmeric), vitamins and minerals (like vitamin C or iron), speciality supplements (like fish oil or probiotics) and sports nutrition and weight management (like clear whey isolate). Any of these are used to achieve particular goals, such as sleeping better, reducing inflammation, losing weight or building muscle Bulk Nutrients.

When to Use Fitness Supplements

Fitness supplements can be taken before a workout to improve performance, during a workout to maintain energy levels and protect muscle tissue, or after a workout to support faster recovery. The timing and frequency of intake really depend on the supplement in question.

Caffeine

Probably thought of more as a stimulant that helps us to wake up in the morning, caffeine is considered a supplement because it boosts metabolism, enhances performance, burns fat and provides antioxidants. According to Mielgo-Ayuso et al. (2019), ingesting 3-6mg of caffeine per kg of body weight (a moderate to low dose) about one hour before exercise can be beneficial to performance. However, results tend to vary depending on the person’s condition, how intensely and how long they exercise and what type of exercise they do.

Creatine

A widely used and thoroughly researched supplement, creatine is used to build strength and muscle by supplying energy to help them to contract. As well as being used for fitness, this supplement shows some promise for older adults experiencing the loss of skeletal muscle mass, according to a 2022 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Creatine for women is also beneficial for those trying to put on a little more muscle.

Creatine can be found in dairy, eggs and meat and 3-5g a day are all that is required. For vegetarians and vegans, you can get capsules or a powdered form of creatine that can be mixed with water, juice, protein shakes or smoothies and taken before or after a workout.

Omega-3

Omega-3 is a fatty acid that contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In a 2011 study carried out by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, DHA improves reaction time and decision-making among elite athletes.

Omega-3 is found in oily fish like mackerel, salmon and herring but can also be obtained from capsules. In case you prefer a plant-based source, you can get Omega-3 from nuts, seeds and soya or an algae-based capsule instead. There isn’t currently an official recommendation on dosage, but there is general agreement that 160mg a day after exercise is sufficient for a healthy person.

Vitamin D

Exposure to UV rays helps us to produce vitamin D, but not many of us get enough regular sunlight all year round to produce enough to meet the recommended amount. Some foods, like tuna, salmon, eggs and dairy, contain vitamin D or you can get tablets or capsules.

Studies, including one carried out by Cannell et al. (2009), suggest that vitamin D improves performance and protects against injury. You should get at least 10mcg of vitamin D a day before or after working out.

Protein

Protein contains branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that help with the uptake of glucose and assist with the building of muscle as well as recovery. Fouré and Bendahan (2017) suggest that BCAA supplementation reduces muscle damage induced by exercise, particularly when taken before exercise. The authors also suggest that 200mg per kg of body weight should be taken every day starting seven days before intense exercise and continuing for ten days.

Protein can be found in lean chicken, pork and beef, tofu, lentils, dairy, nuts and seeds. Alternatively, you can get protein bars, balls, premixed smoothies or powder that can be added to water, juice or milk.

Risks of Supplementing

As with anything, taking too much of these supplements can result in side effects. For example, too much caffeine can make you irritable, make it difficult to sleep and cause diarrhoea. An excess of creatine can cause gastrointestinal upset, weight gain and diabetes, and too much omega-3 can lead to low blood pressure, increased risk of bruising, diarrhoea, weight gain and diabetes. Overdosing on vitamin D can cause kidney damage, high blood pressure and bone loss, while too much protein can cause gastrointestinal upset, weight gain, high cholesterol and organ damage.

To avoid any of these unpleasant side effects, the best thing to do is consult your doctor before you start supplementing for fitness. This is particularly important if you have any existing medical conditions, as some supplements can interact with medications or worsen symptoms.

The Takeaway

Fitness supplements can help you to achieve certain results when combined with a balanced lifestyle. Some help to build and repair muscle, while others help to increase metabolism while decreasing appetite. Fitness supplements will not provide results alone and are intended to be used alongside a balanced diet and regular workouts. A healthy lifestyle and plenty of sleep should also feature.

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