5 Must Have Supplements For Every Sports Enthusiast
Whether you’re a high performance athlete like Emily Brydon and her fellow athletes competing in the Olympics this month, or someone that simply enjoys being active, there are a variety of supplements that can help to maximize performance while minimizing the risk and repercussions associated with injury. None of these supplements will substitute for clean water, good sleep, a well-balanced diet and stretching before and after a workout, but they can give your training and performance a boost.
1. Mixed Amino Acids – Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins (and thus muscle). They are also necessary for growth and development, formation of hormones, neurotransmitters, and enzymes, and promotion of wound healing and muscle function. A mixed amino-acid supplement (as opposed to single amino acids) would be particularly beneficial to muscle function; it’s important to look for a supplement that has amino acids in their free form, without flowing agents that inhibit bioavailability.
2. Electrolyte Mix – Although water is an important aspect of hydration, and suffices for most people, when a lot of fluid is lost through perspiration, you need to replace more than just water. Companies like Gatorade and Powerade produce electrolyte drinks that are designed to replace lost fluid and electrolytes but are full of sugar, artificial colour, preservatives, and who knows what else. There’s a reason it’s electric blue. There are many electrolyte products on the market that are powders you simply mix into your water. They have varying levels of electrolytes, and some are flavoured (naturally) and include other important nutrients. These electrolyte drinks are also great to have on hand in case you develop food poisoning, the stomach flu, or a little bit of a hangover.
3. Curcumin – Curcumin (turmeric) is an herb that is used globally to support the body’s natural inflammatory response, particularly in response to overuse or exertion, or connective tissue injury. Curcumin is also known for it’s antioxidant properties, and it’s contributions to cardiovascular health, liver function, and joint health. Additionally, curcumin is being researched as a potent chemotherapeutic agent. Unfortunately, the very property that makes curcumin such a powerful substance also limits its bioavailability so when looking for curcumin-based supplements, look for those that use phosphatidylcholine as a binder.
4. Glucosamine sulfate plus MSM or chondroitin sulfate – Not only is the use of glucosamine/chondroitin helpful with pre-existing joint pain, it also can help to protect healthy joints that are kept busy. Glucosamine promotes healthy cartilage in joints and synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints, preventing injury. MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane) promotes the body to produce chondroitin, which is a main ingredient of cartilage.
5. Protein Supplement – Everyone needs a certain amount of protein daily, 0.8 g/kg/day with a mild amount of activity and more if you’re pregnant or active. It seems that protein would be easy to get but it turns out that, if you’re looking for lean, good quality sources of protein, it can be a challenge. This is particularly true if you’re a vegetarian. Powdered sources of protein can be a nice addition to the diet of an active person because it allows you to incorporate clean, healthy sources of protein into every meal. They can be combined with rice milk, almond milk, and frozen fruit to make a quick breakfast or a pre-workout snack. Protein also enhances our ability to detoxify as it boosts glutathione levels, an important detoxification molecule. There are a variety of protein supplements available, made from whey, brown rice, and soy sources. If you’re sensitive to soy or dairy, you may want to consider a brown rice source. They also come with a variety of additives; some are full of other vitamins and minerals, some have sugar and flavour added, and others have amino acids added. I’d recommend starting with something simple, with few unrecognizable ingredients and experimenting until you find one with a balance of healthy ingredients and good texture/taste.
These are only a small sampling of supplements that are geared towards active people. Some are certainly more useful than others and none of them are required to be healthy and active, they may just give a nudge in the right direction. The best treatment for injury is, of course, prevention so please plan your workouts and activities carefully, always listening to what your body is telling you. Learn your own body’s cues so you can identify when you can push yourself and when you need to take it easy.