To get an edge on their competition, some athletes unfortunately turn to performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). This is a fancy way of saying they use steroids, risking their health and reputation in the process.
It's not worth the cost, especially since there are plenty of safe and legal supplements that can benefit athletes.
The following supplements can help you boost your strength, recover and increase your overall sports performance. But remember: They're only effective if you also train properly and maintain a healthy diet. And before taking any of these products, be sure to follow the instructions; never exceed the recommended dose; and consult a doctor. (See also Which Supplements Are Safe?)
Creatine is one of the most thoroughly researched supplements on the market. It's produced naturally within the body, but you can also get it from taking supplements or eating beef. (See also How to Take Creatine as an Athlete.)
Creatine supplementation helps the body produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that is the body's primary source of energy. The quicker your body can produce ATP, the more sustained energy you will have. Creatine also promotes greater strength and muscle recovery, both on the field and in the weight room.
Creatine supplements are most effective when taken in 3- to 5-gram doses either before or after competition.
Stick with a micronized creatine monohydrate and be sure to consume plenty of water throughout the day, since creatine can cause dehydration.
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Protein builds muscles. In fact, muscles are essentially made up of proteins. Whey is sort of the king of protein. Derived from dairy, it has a very high and rapid absorption rate and is rich in key amino acids for muscle building and recovery.
For competitive athletes, I recommend consuming 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day, supplementing with 20 to 40 grams of whey protein immediately after a workout or practice. Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey or Dymatize Elite Whey are both high-quality brands. (See Powder Hour: Is It Time to Add Protein Powder to Your Diet?)
Branched Chain Amino Acids
BCAAs are essential for muscle building and recovery. Every protein is made up of chains of amino acids. By supplementing the three BCAA's—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—athletes can kick-start their muscle building and recovery process.
To get maximum benefit, take 3 to 5 grams of BCAAs about 30 minutes before a workout, or during a workout. Also, make sure your post-workout protein contains all three essential BCAAs. There are tons of BCAA supplements out there, but I recommend Muscle Pharm Amino 1 or Muscle Pharm BCAA 3:1:2. Both are designed specifically for athletes.
You may not have heard of this one, but trust me, it is worth taking—and you may have taken it without knowing it. Many pre-workout supplements include beta alanine, which tends to cause a tingling sensation in the body shortly after you consume it.
The tingling shouldn't alarm you though. A naturally occurring amino acid, beta alanine is perfectly safe to consume as a supplement. It works by stimulating the production of carnosine, which plays a huge role in fighting hydrogen ion buildup in the muscles during exercise.
Hydrogen ions—not lactic acid as is commonly thought—cause the "burn" sensation during a workout and lead to muscle fatigue. A decrease in hydrogen ion buildup leads to increased strength and endurance.
Start by supplementing with about 800mg pre-workout, and take no more than 3 grams (3,000mg). Super Set by Body Fuse is a quality brand; however, you can also get an adequate dose from your pre-workout drink.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it's not. A lot of athletes overlook multi-vitamins. But they're a good option, because the human body needs lots of different nutrients to be able to perform and function at a high level. For an athlete, it can be difficult to consume all those nutrients through food alone.
I've used Natural Selection by Body Fuse for quite some time now; it's the best multi-vitamin I've tried.
Arginine is another amino acid. Converted to nitrogen oxide in the body, it plays a key role in blood and oxygen flow. It stimulates "vasodilation," which means it expands your blood vessels, allowing more nutrients to transport to your muscles and translating into a quicker recovery between and during workouts, increased muscle size and strength, and greater endurance. (Interesting fact: caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts your blood vessels, resulting in poor circulation.)
The general recommended dose of arginine is around 3 grams taken 30 to 60 minutes pre-workout. Many pre-workout drinks claim arginine as a main ingredient, but that can be deceiving because of its small amount. I recommend either Nitrix by BSN or Nitro Active by Body Fuse.
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