Whether you’re a superathlete or a weekend warrior, fitness supplements can help fuel workouts, enhance performance, boost endurance, aid in muscle recovery and mitigate post-workout soreness.
Which ones do you need, and when? Here’s a guide to 5 of the best – before, during and after exercise.
In studies, nitrate-rich beets have been shown to increase blood nitric oxide (NO) concentrations, promoting vasodilation, improving blood flow, strengthening muscle contraction and enhancing cardiorespiratory endurance. Research links beetroot juice with improved performance, especially during intermittent, high-intensity exercise with short rest periods. Other studies suggest beetroot juice may improve muscle power and reduce muscular fatigue. Plus, beets are high in potassium to help prevent weakness, muscle cramps and fatigue, none of which you need in the middle of a workout. Look for it in powders, capsules or drink mixes.
Try: The Vitamin Shoppe, plnt Organic Beet Root Powder $17, vitaminshoppe.com
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are essential for your body to repair and grow muscles. BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids, include three specific amino acids: isoleucine, valine and leucine; leucine in particular is especially important for promoting muscle protein synthesis and helping to prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue. Studies suggest BCAA supplements may improve energy and reduce fatigue during exercise, protect against muscle damage, promote muscle building and minimize post- workout soreness, especially when taken before exercising. Evidence suggests that BCAAs also play critical roles in gut health and immunity and may help mitigate exercise-related immune impairment. Look for it in powders, capsules or drink mixes.
Carbs are your body’s main fuel source during exercise, and if you’re running, swimming or cycling for an extended period of time, you may need to replenish. Research suggests consuming carbs during prolonged moderate to high-intensity exercise may improve endurance, and small amounts of carbs during exercise may also enhance shorter, more intense workouts. Well-formulated energy gels offer fast, portable and concentrated carbs, and because most don’t contain fiber, fat or protein, they can be easier to digest than bars and can improve performance: In one study, eating bars during exercise decreased power and increased nausea, stomach fullness, abdominal cramps and perceived exertion compared to gels, and drink mixes also increased nausea compared to gels. Gels can be far from clean, however, so look for fruit-based versions made with natural sweeteners.
Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine, studies suggest this resin from the Boswellia serrata tree may have powerful analgesic benefits and may help reduce pain and inflammation after exercise. Research has found evidence that boswellia may significantly lessen knee pain and enhance mobility, especially in those with osteoarthritis of the knee. Other research suggests boswellia combined with curcumin may be especially effective at accelerating muscle recovery after exercise. Look for standardized boswellia extract, in capsules or softgels.
This amino acid is involved in many metabolic processes, but prolonged exercise and periods of heavy training decrease blood concentrations. Research suggests glutamine supplements may improve strength recovery and decrease muscle soreness after intense exercise. Prolonged endurance exercise is also linked with susceptibility to leaky gut, and glutamine may aid in protecting against exercise-induced intestinal permeability. Look for it in powders or capsules, or as an ingredient in drink mixes.
Try: 1st Phorm Glutamine, $25, 1stphorm.com
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