Dr. Naveed Saleh takes issue with the way dietary supplements are marketed. He believes that athletes deserve better information when deciding which ones to take to achieve peak performance. This means going beyond brand hype, adds Saleh. His recommendations, based on the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, offer safety and efficacy reassurances grounded in evidence-based science so you can rely upon them with confidence.
- Beetroot/beet juice/Betaine:
Athletes seeking improvements in blood vessel dilation during training, energy boosts and oxygen efficiencies are drawn to this formulation. It’s widely recommended for folks seeking maximum performance at time trials associated with rowing, bicycling, and swimming. While some betaine can be gleaned from whole-grain bread, spinach, and beets, when a supplement is ingested, creatine production is boosted and both bodybuilders and cyclists attest to it’s performance-enhancing qualities. Results from clinical trials are mixed, but athletes consuming 2.5 grams daily for up to 15 days haven’t experienced side effects.
- Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methyl butyrate (HMB):
When beta-hydroxy beta-methyl butyrate kicks in, extreme muscle protein breakdown is prevented while muscle mass is enhanced. Who benefits most? Athletes undertaking resistance training. The recommended dose is 3 grams daily for up to 2 months. Since this formulation is rarely found in foods, turning to bars and capsules is an ideal way to get benefits. Once it kicks in, damaged skeletal muscle cells may re-establish their former function. Though clinical studies have yielded conflicting results, athletes relying upon HMB have found no safety concerns associated with it.
- Branched-chain amino acids:
Three amino acids — leucine, isoleucine, and valine – combine within this supplement, known for its ability to be metabolized by mitochondria within skeletal muscle. No safety concerns or contraindications have been found. Scientists recommend taking 20 grams of this formulation daily for up to 20 weeks to see results. Athletes suffering from infections or illnesses are advised to limit intake to 0.42 grams. While few clinical studies have been published, they report chemical reaction benefits that promote energy production, enhance strength, speed recovery time, and decrease post-exercise pain.
Even athletes beginning to explore the world of supplements promoting peak athletic performance are aware of this stimulant, but they may not know how far-reaching benefits can be. Recommended dosages of between 400- and 500-mg daily are considered safe. Surpass this amount and you run the risk of extreme side effects like insomnia, restlessness, and tachycardia. Taken before a workout, caffeine can block neuromodulator adenosines and decrease pain resulting from exertion. Especially beneficial to athletes preferring endurance training, moderation is the secret to tolerating caffeine to avoid side effects that impact one’s lifestyle and health.
- Creatine Monohydrate:
Creatine’s benefits are negligible for endurance athletes, but when consumed at a loading dose of 20 grams weekly (or a smaller amount for up to 12 days) for high-intensity, intermittent exercisers, it can enhance performance. Consumers report anerobic boosts right after taking it. Water retention and GI issues have been reported but it’s safe and delivers impressive nutritional ergogenic benefits. Creatine can enhance strength and mediate maximal-effort muscle contractions. Creatine Monohydrate’s best results can be had by consuming it in beverage form.
A favorite of trainers and athletes during the earliest days of supplemental products, iron boosts the body’s oxygen uptake, decreases heart rates, and lowers lactate levels during workouts. Recommended for correcting anemia, evidence suggests iron can boost energy thus athletes with anemia enjoy double benefits. Recommended daily dosages are 8 mg for healthy men and 18 mg for non-pregnant women. No safety issues are reported, though gastrointestinal issues could arise if athletes ingest more than 45 mg per day.
Fasting plasma L-glutamine concentration should range between 500 to 750 μmol/L. To reach this goal, athletes eat dairy products rich in L-Glutamine plus beans, fish, chicken, eggs, and vegetable juices but extreme training may require a supplement, too. By taking L-glutamine, this essential amino acid kicks benefits into overdrive, pumping up immune function and contributing to critical muscle cell development. Because it prevents muscle breakdown it is especially helpful for athletes who undertake extreme training sessions. Choose your favorite delivery system: capsules, bars, or powders.
Scientists developing Ligandrol sought a way to help athletes increase anabolic activity, especially in people suffering serious illnesses. It’s fast becoming the go-to formulation for injured athletes. Ligandrol comes with multiple benefits in addition to performance-boosts; it improves one’s quality of life, too. Ligandro builds muscle, enhances bone strength and physical performance. It is instrumental in muscle recovery as well. Further, Ligandro has the potential to improve blood flow during the post-workout recovery process, an additional benefit that athletes appreciate.
- Sodium bicarbonate:
Sodium bicarbonate can rid the body of hydrogen ions that can build up during intense muscle use resulting from a decrease in metabolic acidosis that can trigger muscle fatigue. Preferred by athletes seeking short-term performance enhancement, sodium bicarbonate enhances intermittent high-intensity training as well. The occasional adverse impact of this product tends to impact gastrointestinal system functions. Recommended intake is 300 mg daily, based on body weight.
- Whey protein:
One of the most potent amino acids on the market, whey protein builds muscle and aids muscle recovery. No safety concerns are reported using this soluble performance-enhancing product and digestion issues are rare. The best time to consume whey protein is before exercising and in recommended amounts of up to 2.0 grams daily to increase lean body mass. Should you take whey protein after working out? Perhaps. Some athletes report beneficial results including reduction in muscle protein breakdown and streamlining the way muscles process oxygen.
Choosing one or more supplements to enhance one’s goal of reaching performance excellence requires athletes to stay abreast of product updates since the scientific community’s introduction of new formulations is frequent. It’s always wise to consult with professionals before self-prescribing if you want to reach your peak athletic potential minus potential side effects or safety issues.