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As long as athletes seek to improve their performance, there will be interest in performance-enhancing supplements. Unfortunately, few legislative or regulatory guidelines are in place to ensure that these products are safe or that they confer the benefits they claim. Read on to learn about some common supplements and whether and how they can safely improve your performance.
A chronic deficiency in some of the B-vitamins has been linked to a reduction in physical performance. Vitamins are especially useful to individuals who have nutritional "gaps" in their diets. Research indicates that a daily multi-vitamin may help prevent disease and contribute to overall health. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, which have the potential to reduce tissue damage following a workout or other sport activity.
Learn more about how to choose the best multivitamins.
L-Carnitine theoretically can be considered a performance-enhancing supplement. It may promote greater use of fat for energy rather than depending on glycogen (stored energy). However, research is inconclusive, showing no real link to athletic performance.
Research has proven that creatine supplementation improves performance by providing energy for contracting muscles, allowing athletes to work out harder and longer. (Learn more about the benefits of creatine.) Creatine is especially useful for athletes who are training for or play sports that involve short bursts of strength, speed or power, like football or hockey. Experienced athletes can take five mg of creatine monohydrate each day.
Caffeine is found in foods like chocolate, soft drinks, coffee, and tea. A typical cup of coffee has 120mg of caffeine. Caffeine mainly acts as a central nervous system stimulant. Athletes who play sports that involve sustained effort lasting longer than an hour—like running, cycling, swimming, rowing, basketball and soccer—will benefit most from caffeine. Consume three to six mg per kilogram of body weight one hour before activity. Learn more about the amount of caffeine found in common drinks.
Protein is essential for muscle repair and recovery, making it very popular among athletes. While it's found in many foods, such as meat, fish, nuts and dairy, many athletes don't get enough through their normal diet to support muscle growth. Whey protein is the best option for athletes, because it is easily digestible, giving the muscles a quick burst of amino acids after a workout. Athletes should aim for about .8g of protein for every pound of body weight. When using a protein supplement, consume 20 to 25 grams of whey protein within 30 minutes after exercise. Check out STACK's Protein Guide for more information.
Learn more about the best supplements for athletes.