The modern market of dietary supplements offers us various types of products that can clearly support the work on our body and the general sport figure. In practice, however, few people realize that not all preparations available on the market can be effective. Therefore, I will present a list of the most useful supplements for athletes in this article.
The number one favourite is definitely creatine, this compound has been recognized as the strongest, legal anabolic on the market for years. Daily practice, as well as the results of numerous scientific studies confirm its beneficial effect on physical exercise and work on the body. Creatine is a substance with anabolic, ergogenic and anti-catabolic effect, which is why it’s often used in various sports disciplines, both at the amateur and professional level. Because of its osmotic properties, creatine increases the hydration of muscle cells, which means the pace of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) processes and the inhibition of proteolytic enzymes (catabolic). This compound also helps accumulate more glycogen – a polysaccharide that is an important fuel for working muscles. In summary, creatine supplementation in combination with resistance training:
- Supports muscle development;
- anti-catabolic (protecting against muscle tissue);
- accelerates ATP resynthesis;
- improves post-workout renewal process;
- increases muscle performance;
- it leads to the increase of muscle strength;
- improves endurance.
There is no doubt that creatine is one of the safest and most effective available supplements used to improve the general sport form. It’s worth mentioning that the most studied and probably the most effective form of creatine is monohydrate.
Recently, a substance called beta-alanine has become quite popular, its beneficial effect on improving the general sport form is thoroughly researched. This relationship has broad support in the results of human studies (not on cells or rats), which makes the conducted experiments have more credibility. Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring beta-amino acid in our body and is used to synthesize carnosine (dipeptide) stored mainly in skeletal muscle. Carnosine has both antioxidant, chelating and buffering properties. Beta-alanine supplementation, such as:
- participates in regulating the pH of muscle cells and delays the level of lactic acid formed in them;
- reduces the accumulation of hydrogen ions;
- supports post-workout regeneration;
- improves the contractility of muscle fibres; reduces neuromuscular fatigue;
- increases the volume of training and helps to reduce the feeling of fatigue;
- increases aerobic capacity.
Based on the above properties, it can be concluded that supplementation with this compound brings tangible benefits, especially in such disciplines in which anaerobic transitions dominate, such as: martial arts, short distance running, swimming (short distances), rowing, biathlon and powerlifting, and bodybuilding. . Beta-alanine is a compound showing mainly ergogenic effects, allowing the muscles to work longer and more efficiently. Scientific research shows that the combination of beta-alanine and creatine allows you to get better results than using these products separately. It’s worth mentioning that our body needs a minimum of 4 weeks (in doses of 4-6 g) to accumulate the right amount of this compound in myocytes, only after this time we can feel a lot of benefits from taking beta-alanine.
Caffeine is a compound that is known primarily for its stimulant and thermogenic properties. Due to the above-mentioned properties, this alkaloid was quickly used in sports supplementation. Caffeine increases the secretion of catecholamines, such as noradrenaline and adrenaline, and also blocks the adenosine receptors found in the brain. In addition, it regulates the use of oxygen in the body and accelerates the heart rate. It all makes this substance:
- stimulate the body to function;
- intensify lipolysis and thermogenesis;
- reduce the feeling of tiredness;
- increase spontaneous motor activity;
- improve aerobic and strength endurance.
The use of caffeine as a potential ergogenic agent can effectively support work on the body and significantly improve the exercise capacity. There are more and more studies indicating that caffeine may also help post-exercise regeneration and reduce muscle ache, which is extremely important for athletes.
Beets are often an underrated component of our diet, although they are easily available and cheap. In addition to the many vitamins, polyphenols, and betanates contained in them, which have a strong anti-cancer effect or other natural health-promoting substances, beets are the source of inorganic nitrates – compounds that contribute to the increase of nitric oxide production in our body. Inorganic nitrates after conversion to nitric oxide (NO) cause better nutrition, blood supply and oxygenation of the muscles. There is evidence in the form of scientific studies that nitrate from food sources may have a greater impact on the production of NO, for example: aforementioned beet juice than nitrogen boosters (supplements) such as l-arginine (most commonly found in the form of Arginine AKKG) or citrulline malate. The recommended dose of nitrates is between 6.4-12.8 mg / kg. It’s best to drink beet juice about 2-4 hours before exercise, because only after this time nitrates get the highest concentration in the plasma. What’s more, beet juice can effectively improve exercise capacity, especially in strength and speed-strength disciplines. Interesting data in this matter was provided in the results of the study conducted by Marco Pinn et al. Published in 2014 with the participation of fourteen trained swimmers. Participants consumed 0.5 l of beetroot juice daily (which corresponds to approx. 6 mmol NO3- / day). After 6 weeks of anaerobic performance, the performance of swimmers has improved significantly. It turns out that the “supplementation” with beetroot juice effectively reduces the energy cost of physical exercise by reducing the absorption of oxygen, and also extends the duration of physical exercise. At the end I would like to point out that the results of the above presented experiment are not isolated. There are many other studies confirming the beneficial effect of beet juice on exercise capacity.
Leucine is an extremely important substance for people practicing sports, because it’s the one that most stimulates the process of muscle protein synthesis, with the participation of special enzymes called kinases (mTOR kinase, S6 kinase). This amino acid may also increase thermogenesis, as well as increase the activity of the protein responsible for heat production, i.e. UCP-3, which is present mainly in skeletal muscle and in a smaller amount in brown adipose tissue – this compound can effectively help reduce body fat. In scientific studies, it was also observed that leucine may have a positive effect on the insulin sensitivity of peripheral tissues, which is extremely beneficial for work on the figure. Leucine is most often used to exceed the so-called leucine threshold, which must be achieved to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
Supplementation should be carefully thought out, and tailored to the physiological needs of the body. Factors that should be taken into account when planning supplementation include: goal, health status (including analysis of test results), current diet (daily supply of macroelements and micronutrients), or nutritional deficiencies and financial opportunities. In addition to the above-mentioned preparations on the supplement market, we can also find products such as protein and carbohydrate nutrients, energy gels, bars and sports drinks, vitamin and mineral preparations, probiotics and other ergogenic agents, e.g. sodium bicarbonate. It’s worth remembering that only properly selected dietary supplements are able to effectively support work on the figure.