How to Choose Sport Supplements for Your Goal?

Sports supplements can be a great addition to a healthy diet to support muscle health and performance and increase energy and strength. You may have other goals — boost the metabolism, decrease body fat, lose some weight, and some supplements are better than others to help you achieve them.

Some sports supplements may support bone and joint health, relieve inflammation or promote muscle recovery. Before going to a nutrition store filled with hundreds of different products, it is important to carefully assess your fitness plan and choose the best sports supplements for your goals.

Types of supplements

Sport supplements are broadly classified based on their ingredients. Many products, such as protein powders and single or combination of amino acids, are protein-based. Others contain essential vitamins and minerals that may support muscle and nervous system function. Herbal products like ashwagandha and other adaptogens are becoming increasingly popular either alone or in combination with vitamins and proteins.

Protein shakes

The daily amount of protein depends on several factors, including your age, fitness goals, weight, and how active you are. The general recommendation is to consume about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram, but athletes may need as much as 1.3-1.8 g per kilogram, divided into 3-4 meals. Here is a protein calculator to get an idea about how many grams of proteins you need daily.

  • Whey protein powder is one of the best sports supplements for a very good reason. It is well researched and was found to be effective in increasing muscle growth and lean body mass. It seems to better boost muscle growth and control appetite than other protein powders based on soy or casein. A review of multiple studies found that using resistance training while supplementing with whey protein helps reduce body weight and fat. As a post-workout supplement, whey protein stimulates the formation of new muscle tissue. Whey protein isolate is very low in lactose compared with whey concentrate and may be considered by those with intolerance to cow’s milk. Whey protein also may help reduce certain inflammation markers and cholesterol levels (particularly LDL cholesterol), blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
  • Collagen is the main protein making up the body and supports healthy bones, joints, skin, and hair; and is also important for digestive health. Unlike whey, collagen does not contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) needed for muscle growth, exercise performance, muscle recovery, or to improve lean body mass. However, collagen contains glycine, arginine, and other amino acids important for the musculoskeletal system. The best way to reap the benefits of protein shakes from your efforts at the gym is to take collagen along with whey protein or BCAAs.
  • Vegan protein shakes contain a combination of plant-based proteins, aiming to provide most of the amino acids that can be found in animal-based proteins. Pea and hemp protein powder is a popular combination. However, it's worth mentioning that gram for gram, animal protein powders are more complete, better absorbed, and typically have fewer calories and carbohydrates compared with plant-based proteins. Animal-based proteins are also proposed to help build the muscles more effectively.

Amino acids and creatine

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) include three amino acids. Leucine is more important to promoting muscle building process than isoleucine and valine. Although whey protein is a source of BCAAs, these amino acids can be taken separately as a supplement, especially if you want to boost athletic performance, reduce muscle breakdown, improve recovery time after workouts, and gain more muscle. BCAAs can also help manage muscle pain a few days after a workout (so-called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS). Those who lift heavy weights and endurance athletes that practice high-intensity training may benefit from extra BCAAs because this supplement increases endurance and helps fight fatigue. The best ratio between amino acids included in BCAAs appears to be 2:1:1 (leucine: isoleucine: valine).

The amino acid lysine helps maintain lean body mass, supports bone, muscle growth, and muscle repair, helps the body generate collagen, keeps the blood vessels healthy, and uses fat for energy.

The amino acid glutamine is proposed to improve athletic performance and cellular metabolism, and may speed muscle recovery. Glutamine also supports detoxification from ammonia and other waste products formed during workouts.

The amino acid arginine is best known for producing nitric oxide. It may boost circulation and support heart health and is proposed to increase exercise performance and muscle growth. Arginine is available as a supplement but taking another amino acid called citrulline is suggested to be even more effective in raising arginine levels in the body. Citrulline is also believed to be helpful in managing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Creatine is a natural compound produced in the body from the amino acids glycine and arginine and is one of the most popular supplements used to boost performance at the gym. Research studies indicate that creatine can increase muscle mass, strength, stamina, exercise performance, and recovery. Creatine is a great addition to whey protein to get better results at the gym.

Multivitamins (with extra vitamin D) and multiminerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential for optimal health and supporting various functions, including the health and strength of muscles and joints, as well as fighting fatigue. B vitamins are essential to generate energy for cells, while vitamin C has strong antioxidant qualities and is involved in collagen synthesis.

Minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc are also involved in energy metabolism, muscle and nerve function, formation of blood cells, and circulation, which are all essential to optimize athletic performance.

Coconut water with a pinch of salt can replace energy drinks by providing hydration and electrolyte replacements lost through sweat.

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem that can interfere with getting the best results from a workout. On the other hand, optimizing vitamin D levels helps improve exercise capacity and cardiorespiratory fitness. This nutrient also supports healthy testosterone levels, and testosterone is well known to be associated with muscle growth, increased physical energy, and less body fat.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens may hel the body to cope with both physical and emotional stress. Instead of giving quick energy surges like coffee or sugar, adaptogens are proposed to help manage the body’s hormones to respond to stress. For instance, ashwagandha is reported to help increase muscle performance, strengthen coordination and promote faster recovery. It may also increases testosterone levels while reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Furthermore, ashwagandha is proposed to support heart health, immune system, healthy weight and may even slow the aging process, however, research examining these benefits is still in its early stages. The adaptogen family of herbs has many other members that may offer similar benefits, including rhodiola, ginseng, schisandra, and maca.

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