If you are exercising (or “working out”) on a regular basis, you should know that your diet and nutrition are extremely important. When it comes to goal-oriented processes such as weight loss or muscle growth, you can easily argue that nutrition is as important as working out (if not moreso). Your nutrition affects your progress in your workouts, how much load and intensity you can handle, how you feel during your workouts, and how you recover.
When it comes to working out, the food you eat serves as fuel. All three different macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) have a place in a healthy diet (more info on these at myhealth.alberta.ca. But in addition to a healthy diet, the right supplements can be critical to improving your workout performance and enhancing recovery.
While your diet is your primary means of overall nutrition, supplements are just that – supplements. They are an addition to a healthy diet, not a replacement. Food serves as fuel, while supplements are a valuable enhancement to your nutritional intake and workout performance. Here is a look at how various supplements can boost your workout regime:
Supplements to Enhance Workout Performance
L-arginine: This amino acid helps to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to your muscles, per ods.oh.nih.gov. More oxygen to the muscles means increased energy efficiency and endurance.
Taurine: This is another amino acid that might help boost athletic performance by reducing fatigue, per healthline.com. Scientific evidence suggests that taurine helps remove waste products that build up in the muscles during exercise, thereby reducing fatigue. It might also increase fat-burning during exercise.
Caffeine: You’ve heard of this one before. Caffeine isn’t just good for waking you up in the morning – it can help with workout performance, too. Per webmd.com, caffeine can be a helpful energy-booster useful for prolonged forms of exercise such as running, rowing, and playing tennis. It can be found in tablets, chewing gum, and other forms.
Beta-alanine: This is an amino acid (a building block of proteins) commonly used for short, high-intensity exercise. Beta-alanine curbs the muscular “burn” feeling that occurs from lactic acid build-up during intense exercise, per webmd.com. Scientific findings on its effectiveness vary, but athletes commonly consume beta-alanine supplements.
Citrulline: Per National Instututes of Health (NIH), citrulline can help blood vessel dilation, thereby increasing the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to skeletal muscle (the type of muscle responsible for doing most of the work during movement and exercise).
Supplements to Enhance Muscle Growth & Recovery
Muscle recovery is an important element to increasing muscular fitness and progress. It is only after your muscles have recovered properly that you can repeat an intense exercise effort. If recovery is impaired, then injury and fatigue can occur, and progress will be hindered.
Whey protein: Whey protein consumption is very common among performance athletes, especially weightlifters. Protein is absolutely essential for muscle growth, and for those who want to maximize growth, whey protein is the perfect supplement. Per webmd.com, consuming whey protein after workouts can help curb muscle damage and enhance growth.
Glutamine: Per NIH, glutamine is an amino acid that “contributes nitrogen for many critical biochemical reactions,” and might help with muscle recovery. More specifically, it might help recover muscle strength after intense exercise, and lower soreness.
Potassium: Per healthline.com, a muscle cramp (a sudden, uncontrolled spasm of muscle that is often painful) is more likely to occur if you are magnesium deficient. You are liable to experience muscle cramps after exercise, especially if the exercise was intense or novel to you. Potassium helps relay contraction signals between your brain and muscles, and might help reduce the incidence of muscle cramps.
Creatine: Creatine is commonly consumed by athletes performing intense exercise, especially those looking to build muscle. According to examine.com, creatine is among the most well-researched supplements. It gives a wide variety of potential benefits, including improvements in muscle strength and gaining of lean mass. It might also help with muscular performance, too.
BCAAs: The branch-chain amino acids are commonly taken by athletes to enhance recovery. Per healthline.com, BCAAs are commonly found in a wide array of food types as well as whole protein supplements. They can not only help build muscle but also reduce muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness. This is especially important in high-volume aerobic exercise such as running and cycling.