The 4 Key Supplements & Vitamins for Athletes

Updated on October 21st, 2020
supplements for athletes

A balanced and complete nutritional plan is crucial for an athlete to perform well. Besides their nutrition, the implementation of supplements and vitamins can offer athletes with the nutrients they need to give their best.

While there is an exhaustive list of ergogenic aids, athletes can benefit from taking this well-researched list of the best supplements for athletes.

Supplements for Athletes

These supplements are just suggestions and should be discussed with a physician before incorporating these into your nutritional regimen.

1. Beta-Alanine 

This amino acid has been associated with several benefits for athletes, including increased exercise performance (Gerber T, Danaher J, Stathis CG, Wellard RM). Beta-alanine is a supplement that spikes carnosine, which in turn reduces acidic buildup in muscles, giving athletes a prolonged endurance [2].

This reduction in muscle soreness and fatigue leads experts to determine that this supplement is particularly useful for endurance athletes looking to prolong their performance times or deliver a more significant physical output. 

The opportunity for heightened physical performance leads beta-alanine to benefit all athletes, but particularly those who perform endurance sports, including cyclists, distance runners, ball-sport athletes, and distance swimmers.

Recent research conducted on cyclists observed that 4 weeks of beta-alanine intake resulted in a thirteen percent increase in aerobic capacity (Harris RC, Hill CA, Kim HJ, Sale C, Harris BD,  Kim CK, Boobis LH, Wise JA.).

Beta-alanine supplements are among the multiple supplements athletes can use to reach a greater level of ability and performance.

[Also Read: Best Natural Endurance Supplements]

2. Creatine 

Creatine is one of the prevalently used supplements today by athletes. Exhaustive research has led to the general census that this supplement helps build muscle in strength training (Kreider R, Williams MH, Branch JD.) [3]. Creatine is naturally present in muscle cells as a means to offer muscle energy during high-demand exercises.

The ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) classifies creatine as “the most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement presently available to athletes in terms of increasing lean body mass during training and high-intensity exercise capacity .”(Chad M., Kerksick,  Michael D. Roberts, Colin D. Wilborn,  Abbie Smith-Ryan, Ralf Jäger, Rick Collins, Susan M. Kleiner, et al.) 

The usage of creatine by professional athletes not only promotes a higher rate of muscle growth, but it has also been related to performance in high-intensity exercises, enabling sports persons to perform more training and thus build more muscle.

Creatine is sometimes linked with adverse health benefits; however, the International Society of Sports Nutrition has consulted tons of data and has yet to find any findings to back this view. Also remarkable, creatine is an excellent supplement for completely or primarily plant-based athletes to promote mass muscle growth.

[Read: Benefits of Creatine]

3. Betaine

Betaine was primarily used to overcome muscle weakness in polio symptoms. With the advent of vaccines, its use for polio is no longer required, and it has since been researched for its ability to enhance physical performance [4].

When tested on people finishing a weight lifting program, betaine was shown to enhance arm size, body composition, bench press work capacity, and power. However, it did not impact the strength of the research participants.

Betaine has also been researched in non-athletes. Particularly research conducted with untrained collegiate-aged females, betaine was proven to lower fat mass when accompanied by a resistance training program.

So what does this mean?

When paired with exercise, betaine can increase lean mass, decrease fat mass, and increase overall power. Short-term use of two to five grams for fifteen days has been shown to be safe and at this time, with no known remarkable adverse effects of supplementation.

While these studies are encouraging, conflicting results for its use as ergogenic support exist. Larger randomized control trials are required to determine the precise dosage and function at which betaine may increase performance.

[Also Read: Natural Ways to Boost Your Stamina]

4. Beetroot

Nitric oxide is a naturally found gas in our bodies. It sounds a little scary, but it works to expand our blood vessels and allows more oxygen to get to critical places, such as our muscles. When we eat food with nitrates, some nitrates are converted to nitric oxide, having the effect mentioned earlier.

Why do we care? Well, beet juice and beets are some of the highest sources of nitrate. The studies behind beets make sense, and the research has backed it up. Studies examining the effects of beet juice on performance have shown its effect on aerobic (meaning the exercise needs oxygen) endurance activities like swimming and running.

Usually, beet juice is safe when consumed one or two cups per day but beware; it may turn your urine red or pink. While research has been conducted with beet juice, we are less sure as to whether beets in powdered form have a similar effect.

[Read: Health Benefits of Beetroot Juice]

Bottom Line

While several other supplements that function to improve athletic performance exist, it is essential to review the current literature to ensure effectiveness. It would be best to consider the brand you choose and whether an outside agency has tested it for purity and efficacy.

Supplements can be used healthfully to enhance athletic ability, and as more studies in this area surfaces, we know more and more about how they can be used in sport and exercise.

Still, it is suggested that you check with your physician before starting any new supplement routine. Some of these supplements can react with other medicines you may be taking, and some have adverse effects not listed in this review.

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