Whether you are currently involved in a training program or you have been in the past, then you have more than likely either considered taking or are already taking one or more supplements to improve your performance and recovery. With the overwhelming amount of marketing enticing us to buy these products, this comes as no surprise.
Now to make it clear, I am not talking about Performance enhancing drugs. But rather dietary supplements which can be bought as an addition to your diet.
The problem with most supplements that exist is that they are either completely useless, or are simply not useful enough to be worth your money. For instance, a lot of companies will put ingredients in which have little to no research backing their claims when it comes to the effectiveness of the ingredients. Another common issue is that of proprietary blends. This is basically a list of ingredients that doesn’t include dosages of specific ingredients. Not only does this save the company money by allowing them to increase the amount of cheap ingredients and reducing the more expensive ones, it can render the supplement useless by under dosing key ingredients.
With that being said, there are however a select few supplements that have been researched enough and have been proven to improve physical performance in certain ways. Let’s take a look:
The current recommendation for protein is around 0.8 g/kg of bodyweight for the general population. However if you are exercising, consider anywhere for 1.2g – 2g/ kg of bodyweight. Protein supplements such as powders can help you reach this target. My recommendation is whey protein or pea protein if you are looking for a vegetarian/ vegan option.
Surprised? Caffeine has been proven to increase physical performance by increasing power output and training volume (total amount of work) all whilst reducing fatigue. On top of this, caffeine ingestion can lead to increased energy expenditure and reduced appetite, making it a go to supplement for weight loss.
The general guideline is 300-400 mg/ day and an upper limit of 1g. Another option is to take 4mg/ kg before training.
One of the most researched supplements out there. It has been shown again and again to improve strength and power. Creatine is useful for short term bursts of energy (i.e. 1 – 8 reps, or sprints of any sort). Additionally, creatine draws water into the muscles, giving them a more bulky and defined appearance at the expense of increased weight gain. The recommendation is 3-5g/ day before or after training. The key is to take it everyday to build up the creatine stores in your body. It is important to increase your water intake when taking this supplement.
L-Citrulline is an amino acid which when converted to Arginine in the kidneys acts a vasodilator, essentially increasing blood flow in arteries and veins. As opposed to creatine, L-Citrulline becomes useful when doing high volume training (high repetitions and sets). Additionally, supplementation of Citrulline Malate, a combination of L-citrulline and Malate, can help reduce post exercise muscle soreness, therefore reducing recovery times between workouts. In terms of dosage, take 4-10g at least an hour before training.