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Workout Supplements That Boost Athletic Performance

Over the last decade, workout supplements have become increasingly popular. The pre-workout supplement industry alone is estimated to reach 28.68 billion dollars by 2028! We aren’t even talking about ALL workout supplements, but simply only PRE-workout supplements. Talk about a growing industry!

Woman wearing purple hoodie and black leggings sitting on the counter, holding white tub of workout supplements.

But why are consumers practically begging these industries to take their money?

According to a study published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, nearly 50% of athletic participants used dietary supplements to gain muscle, accelerate recovery, and improve sports performance.

Whether your are a regular gym-goer, cross-country runner, swimmer, gymnast, weightlifter, and cross-fitter, workout supplements can boost your athletic performance and assist you in achieving your goals.

Read that last sentence again. Supplements are meant to ASSIST you in achieving your goals. They should never replace a nutritious, whole-food-based diet.

Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Extension nutrition specialist, stated “These pills and capsules were never intended to be the main source of vitamins and minerals. Dismiss the notion that you can eat chips and drink soda with every meal as long as you take supplements. Making wise food choices is the best way to get your vitamins and minerals.”

Two plates of nutritious foods such as rice, salmon, broccolli, corn, avocado, tomato, ground beef, and lettuce.

They also will not help you lose weight or build muscle if you are neglecting exercise. I cannot tell you, how many people I have met who spent hundreds of dollars on fat-burning pills, and end up frustrated.This is something I have to clear up with my clients during an initial consultation.

I also suppose that it can be difficult to figure out which supplements are truly beneficial and which ones are just a waste of money. Some supplement marketing can be so convincing that you may feel like you need to take everything from pre-workout supplements to protein powders in order to achieve your fitness goals.

Furthermore, the FDA does not regulate supplements before they are put on the market. This means you could be consuming something harmful!

To help clear up this confusion, I have compiled a list of supplements approved by Fitnello's fitness supplements expert.

While there are certainly many supplements on the market that don't work, there are also many that have been thoroughly tested and studied by scientists over the years and have proven to be effective. Keep reading this article to find out which supplements you should invest in and how they can benefit your fitness routine.

Having said that, let’s explore the most common supplements for fitness on the market to help educate yourself and make informed decisions about your health and wellness.

Caucasian woman wearing purple leggings and sports bra pointing at two containers of workout supplements.

Common Workout Supplements and What You Should Know About Them

Many supplements for fitness can be taken as tablets, capsules, soft gels, gel caps, powders, bars, gummies, and liquids. Gym supplements are also recommended to be taken during specific times, such as before or after a workout. With each gym supplement, I will provide the recommended time frame to consume said supplement.

Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list, but rather the most common gym supplements taken by athletes and gym-goers.

1. Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that is put in many foods and beverages. It is relatively safe to use as long as you consume within the daily limit. According to the FDA, 400 milligrams of caffeine is the daily limit for healthy adults.

Caffeine works by blocking the action of adenosine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, and increasing the production of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. This can lead to increased alertness, improved focus, and improved physical performance (Harvard School of Public Health).

The chemical formula for caffeine and two pre-workout products.

Because of caffeine’s positive correlation to exercise performance, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have started to ban it in high doses.

Now, how should you consume caffeine to boost athletic performance? Before a workout, I recommend either having a cup of coffee or taking caffeinated pre-workout. Most gym-goers take pre-workout before exercising to give themselves a boost of energy. Just follow the directions on the label and enjoy!!!!

Caffeine can also increase heart rate and blood pressure. However, it can also lead to feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia when consumed in large amounts.

2. Creatine

Creatine monohydrate is one of the few supplements that have been thoroughly researched and proven to be effective. There are other forms of creatine that have not been studied as much, but creatine monohydrate is safe and effective.

Creatine is naturally found in your body’s muscles and brain (Mayo Clinic). In fact, creatine is so safe to consume that sports scientist and assistant professor at McNeese State University in Louisiana, Dr. Micheil Spillane states that creatine is something they would give to relatively anyone.

Creatine supplementation is generally recommended for athletes who participate in power or strength exercises, such as weight lifting, or sports that require intermittent sprints and other intense activities, such as soccer and basketball. It is known to increase strength and power, as well as muscle mass, in workout performance and general health.

Creatine workout supplement with arrow pointing to a muscular woman.

Studies have proven that it is safe to consume and the International Society of Sports Nutrition has stated there are no long-term negative effects, even with larger doses. It is suggested to take 3-5 grams per day, though it is important to consult a doctor if taking creatine daily for over six months.

Taking creatine may result in weight gain, but this is because of muscles retaining water. To mitigate other potential side effects such as digestion issues, muscle cramps, stiffness and heat intolerance, it is important to stay hydrated while taking creatine.

According to an article published by Harvard, “Research suggests that creatine supplementation increases muscle availability of creatine, which in turn can enhance exercise capacity and training adaptations in adolescents, younger adults, and older adults. Specifically, these adaptations allow for individuals to increase training volume (e.g., the ability to perform more repetitions with the same weight), which in turn can lead to greater increases in lean mass and muscular strength and power."

3. BCAA’s

BCAAs stands for “branched-chain amino acids”. BCAAs contain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They can be consumed through protein-rich foods such as fish, chicken, and eggs, or through dietary supplements. If taken as a workout supplement, BCAA’s can be consumed pre, intra, or post-workout. This means that you can drink it before, during or after your training.

BCAA’s play an important role in muscle protein synthesis. According to a research study, consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss.

Workout supplements in the form of pills and a powder in a tub. The right is a picture of BCAA supplement.

Approach high doses with caution, however, as that can lead to low blood sugar or a disease called pellagra, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. High intake of BCAAs can have a negative effect on glucose metabolism and diabetes (Harvard School of Public Health).

4. Protein Powder

Protein helps muscle growth and appetite control. The amount thought to be adequate for most healthy people is set at 0.8 grams per kilogram (Harvard Publishing).

However, athletes who are trying to build muscle typically eat close to their body weight in grams. For example, a 135 lb woman looking to build lean muscle mass would consume anywhere from 130-150 grams of protein a day.

Generally, protein powder is not necessary and most healthy individuals obtain the minimum amount of protein they need without using supplements such as protein powder. However, it can be convenient.

Collection of protein supplement products. This includes two protein milks, a tub of protein powder, and protein bars.

Furthermore, there are two different kinds of protein powders, whey and plant-based. Whey protein powder is animal-based. Plant-based protein powder can be derived from peas and rices. These are typically added to smoothies as a convenient and quick meal.

Despite this, it is important to make informed decisions about purchasing and consuming protein powder. The FDA does not regulate it the same way as it does with food and medicine. This means that manufacturers are responsible in making sure that the supplement is safe and effective. Be careful when choosing a powder.

5. Glutamine

Glutaime is an amino acid, a building block for protein, and is vital to the immune system. Traces of L-glutamine are found within our diets, especially protein-rich foods such as eggs and beef (Healthline).

Some research suggests that glutamine helps with muscle soreness and recovery (PubMed). Personally, I love taking glutamine and notice a difference in muscle soreness. When I regularly take the supplement, my body is rarely sore, even after intense exercise.

However, there is little to no research that proves whether it increases muscle mass.

A diagram of muscle pain in someone's leg. The product next to it is glutamine which helps with muscle recovery.

6. Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is a nonessential amino acid naturally produced by the human body, which helps in the production of carnosine. Carnosine allows muscles to endure more and last longer before becoming fatigued, by diminishing lactic acid that accumulates during exercise, increasing endurance and performance (Healthline).

Though it can be taken as a supplement, it is also found in foods such as poultry, meat, and fish. If taken as a supplement, 4-6 grams is typically recommended (National Library of Medicine).

According to a study published by the Human Kinetics Journal, “Though supplementation with BA may increase athletic performance… there is insufficient evidence examining the safety of BA supplementation and its side effects. It is therefore recommended to err on the side of caution in using BA as an ergogenic aid until there is sufficient evidence confirming its safety.”

7. L-Citrulline

Citrulline is an amino acid produced by the body, which can also be acquired from dietary sources. It can also be found in two supplement forms: L-citrulline or citrulline malate.

L-citrulline has grown increasingly popular among athletes due to its ability to increase blood flow and promote protein synthesis, which in turn activates the signals in the body that aid in muscle growth.

Research shows that taking L-citrulline will help with recovery regardless of training intensity (PubMed).

8. Baking Soda

For more than 80 years, researchers have been investigating the effects of sodium bicarbonate on physical performance. Sodium bicarbonate is just another name for a common household ingredient... BAKING SODA! That's right, baking soda is used as a supplement!

It is cheap, and studies show it to be effective to boost athletic performance.

Black background and two containers with white powder known as baking soda.

Baking soda has a pH of 8.4, which is alkaline. It may be effective in neutralizing an excessive amount of hydrogen during anaerobic exercise. During exercise, bicarbonate and other buffering agents work to remove hydrogen from the working muscle and transfer it to the bloodstream, allowing the muscle to become less acidic (PubMed).

It is thought to improve speed, power, work capacity and time to failure. Additionally, sodium bicarbonate may be particularly beneficial for muscular endurance according to a review of studies.

Bottom Line

Workout supplements and supplements for fitness are incredibly common and well-advertised in this day and age. However, are they beneficial? It can be difficult to identify which supplements are effective and which ones are not cost-effective. The FDA does not regulate supplements before allowing them to be sold, so there is a risk of consuming something that is potentially harmful. Always consult with a healthcare provider before regularly consuming any supplements.

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