Achieve your new best with these 5 supplements
Want to take your fitness to a whole new level? This is your guide to peak performing supplements.
When it comes to fitness, one slight change can transform your performance from good to great. Naturopathic doctor Christina Christoforou gives you her recommendations on the top five exercise supplements used for peak fitness performance.
Whey is a milk-derived protein source. The purest form is called whey isolate, which contains exceptionally high amounts of essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids.
According to Christoforou, founder of Holistix Naturopathic Health Clinic, whey may replenish proteins needed to boost your immune function and increase your lean mass. “If you exercise intensely, you’ll need to consume greater amounts of protein than someone who is inactive, because prolonged, intense exercise damages proteins faster,” says Christoforou.
For best results, Christoforou suggests supplementing with whey protein before and after physical activity.
“If you’re lactose intolerant, use whey isolate. A trusted isolate will extract lactose and still provide all essential amino acids needed for optimal muscle repair and enhanced immune function,” says Christoforou.
Glutamine is an amino acid your body produces naturally. Yet during times of high stress, cortisol elevates and causes a faster depletion of glutamine than the body has time to restore. Heavy long-term exercise suppresses glutamine production by up to 20 percent.
Endurance athletes, your glutamine supplements will revive your immune function to its peak levels, as glutamine is a major fuel for immune cells.
Christoforou recommends taking glutamine immediately after exercise when the immune system is most depleted.
Omegas-3s are essential polyunsaturated fats. “Essential” means our bodies need them but can’t produce them on their own.
These essential fats prevent muscle soreness and pain after exercise due to their anti-inflammatory effects.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), found in omega-3s, has the most profound effect on muscles. It reduces inflammation and strengthens neuromuscular function, which modulates force and staves off fatigue.
Take your omega-3s consistently at the same time every day. “Consistency is the most important factor, because it takes a while for the benefits to begin,” Christoforou says.
“What matters most is the EPA count in omega-3s. Look for sources with 1,000 mg of EPA to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness,” says Christoforou.
Creatine is a protein building block that is stored in our muscles as phosphocreatine. During short bursts of high intensity exercise, it is used to resynthesize adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your major energy source.
Some studies show that creatine increases lean muscle and improves strength during short bursts of high intensity exercise, such as fast and hard uphill cycling or power lifting.
Plan ahead. “Four to 10 days before your high intensity exercise, take a dose of between 10 and 35 g. If you notice a difference and decide to continue, cut back to 2 to 9 g and take it daily,” suggests Christoforou.
BCAAs are a highly concentrated form of three specific amino acids: valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Unlike most amino acids that stop at the liver to be metabolized, BCAAs go directly to your muscle.
During and after exercise BCAAs prevent protein from being broken down and reduce muscle damage during exercise. They may also reduce fatigue as they interfere with tryptophan absorption, the protein that makes us sleepy (especially after big turkey dinners).
While BCAAs have similar benefits to whey protein, there is one significant difference: if weight gain may hinder your athletic performance, BCAAs are lower in calories yet yield similar results.
Christoforou recommends taking BCAA supplements just before or during exercise. “It can help with muscle breakdown during intense exercise and ward off fatigue immediately because it goes directly to your muscles,” she says.
The supplements that are right for you may vary depending on your specific fitness activity and your current nutrition habits. Consult your local health store or health practitioner to find the right dose for you.