UK sport supplement industry is booming, and worth hundreds of millions of pounds. These range from protein powders and electrolytes to fat burning products. So, with such a vast array of often heavily marketed supplements, where do you start?
When considering a supplement, it is important to consider a few points:
- What is my diet like? Is it the best that it can be?
If not, then this is a priority as you can’t supplement your way out of poor nutrition
- What is my training schedule? Again, this will be individual as will any supplements used to support your performance / training and recovery
- Is the supplement safe?
- Is the supplement legal? Especially important if entering competitions
- How is this supplement going to benefit my training / performance / recovery? Is there research to back this up? Are the recommended doses effective for eg. performance enhancement?
Here is a brief look at several supplements which, according to research, have potential performance and / or recovery benefits:
Protein powders: Whey and casein are both high quality sources of protein derived from milk. However, whey protein is often used after training as it is quickly digested and absorbed. Casein is digested more slowly and leads to a relatively sustained increase in amino acids, therefore it is sometimes used before bed to prevent muscle breakdown whilst asleep.
Other protein powders include brown rice, hemp, soy, egg and pea.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): the essential amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. BCAAs can be taken pre-, during or immediately post workout and support muscle protein synthesis, decrease protein catabolism (breakdown), and are important to endogenous glucose production (Lockwood, 2008).
Creatine: in order to be effective, creatine supplementation requires a ‘loading’ period to increase muscle creatine stores, and then once the muscle stores are saturated, a daily maintenance dose. According to scientific literature, a common way to ‘load’ the muscles with creatine is to use 0.3g/kg/day of creatine monohydrate for 5-7 days, and maintenance dose of 3-5g/day creatine monohydrate (Kreider, 2008). Creatine has been shown to increase performance, training adaptations, strength and fat free mass (Volek et al, 1999).
Beta Alanine: studies have shown that beta alanine supplementation can increase muscle carnosine concentrations. Therefore, an acid buffering effect can be achieved which can result in increased performance, especially during high intensity exercise (Sale et al, 2010). Large doses of beta alanine may cause paresthesia, which is a tingling feeling, it can often be avoided by using a time-release formulation, or taking smaller doses.
Always consult a qualified healthcare professional before using any nutritional supplements. For more information, or an individualised approach to supplementation, please contact me.
Kreider R (2008) Sports Applications of Creatine. Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements. Humana Press
Lockwood C (2008) An Overview of Sports Supplements. Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements. Humana Press
Sale C, Saunders B and Harris R (2010) Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine concentrations and exercise performance. Amino Acids,39:321-333
Volek J, Duncan N, Mazzetti S, Staron R, Putukian M, Gómez A, Pearson D, Fink W and Kraemer W (1999) Performance and muscle fibre adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 31: 1147-1156