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Best Supplements for Athletic Performance


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As we grow older, our body’s ability to synthesize or process certain nutrients and minerals from food diminishes. It's just the way nature works. For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, their super-active lifestyles mean they burn huge amounts of these nutrients faster. Therefore, they can't solely rely on natural body processes to replenish these nutrients.

Here is where supplementation comes in. Supplements help us top up on vital nutrients and minerals we need to function optimally. For athletes, one way of maintaining performance is by ensuring the body is well-supplied with what it needs. 

Sports supplements can promote performance in many ways. By doing seemingly simple things like enhancing blood flow, increasing antioxidant activity, or supporting muscle recovery, among others, supplements can improve athletic performance.

So, in this article, we look at supplements with scientific backing for their ability to enhance athletic performance. 

 

Key Takeaways 

  • Athletic training supplements are products designed to improve performance, enhance endurance, and aid recovery.
  • Many are made from natural ingredients, mostly adaptogens, and other compounds.
  • CBD possesses a wide array of health-impacting properties. As a result, it's commonly marketed as an herbal/dietary supplement.

 

What are Athletic Training Supplements?

Athletic training or sports performance supplements are drinks, powders, or pills used to lose fat, build lean muscle, or improve endurance. These are commonly referred to as 'pre-workout' or 'post-workout,' depending on when they are used.

Athletic training supplements are a billion-dollar business, with many fitness gurus touting them as "absolutely necessary" for effective training. But do these products work, or are they overhyped? Can you train effectively without them, and are they safe?

Well, athletic training supplements are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), just like other dietary supplements. This means the government doesn't review their safety and effectiveness before they hit the market.

It also means researching these products before including them in your training regime is a perfectly good idea. While at it, you can also consult your physician or dietician before using workout supplements.

 

Benefits of Athletic Training Supplements

To understand how athletic training supplements might help boost performance, let's first look at what happens during physical activity.

When working out, our bodies derive fuel from three main sources: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbohydrates, typically stored in the skeletal muscles and liver as glycogen, are the body's primary energy source.

Glycogen easily metabolizes into glucose, providing immediate energy to the brain, nervous system, and muscles during training. Glycogen can supply enough energy for 90-120 minutes of intense physical exercise. 

Once the glycogen reserves go low, the body turns to fats to provide energy. This mostly happens during low- to medium-intensity training. When you continue training with low glycogen levels, your body starts burning skeletal muscle protein to produce glucose.

Although physical activity can induce muscle growth (hypertrophy), it also damages muscle tissue, especially in cases of repetitive and intense activity. Naturally, the body repairs itself by growing new muscle fibers to fuse with broken fibers leading to muscle growth. 

Throughout all these, other events also take place. For example, the damaged muscles become painful and inflamed. Secondly, the body requires more proteins and minerals to grow new muscles. Third, all restorative and healing processes happen during rest/sleep, so you need to sleep well.

Don't also forget that the strain on muscles causes a buildup of free radicals and so on.

Performance supplements contain unique ingredients to help the body cope better with the demands of physical activity. In so doing, they improve performance by providing the following benefits:

  • Better resistance to fatigue
  • More muscle power and strength
  • Improved reaction time
  • Better energy metabolism
  • Muscle growth
  • Improved blood flow and oxygen supply
  • Faster recovery from pain and inflammation

Evidently, sports training supplements have lots of potential benefits. But it all depends on their makeup, i.e., the ingredients they contain. 

So, what are the ingredients you should look out for?

 

Best Natural Sports Performance Supplements

When shopping for performance-enhancing supplements, most people are torn between natural or synthetic products. Obviously, both have their merits and demerits, but in recent times natural supplements have gained more traction.

Natural supplements are made with ingredients extracted from natural sources like plants, animals, fungi, lichens, and algae. Many have a history of use in traditional medical systems and herbalism. So, it's easy to see why they have a part in developing performance supplements for athletes.

If you're looking for a workout supplement, here are some ingredients thought to have significant benefits.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in the leaves, fruits, and beans of cacao, coffee, and guarana plants. Coffee is the main source of caffeine. One cup of coffee is thought to have roughly 95mg of caffeine.

Caffeine is a valuable ingredient in pre-workout supplements. Studies on professional athletes suggest it can enhance athletic performance, especially in short, high-intensity exercises and endurance activities.

In high-performance sports, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommends taking 3-6mg/kg of body weight an hour before activity. Lower doses can also be consumed during exercise to enhance performance.

How does caffeine work? Mechanistically, it promotes the release of endorphins and improves neuromuscular function. This leads to higher vigilance and alertness and minimizes an athlete's perception of exertion during activity. 

Despite its potential benefits, higher caffeine doses can negatively affect athletic performance. They may induce insomnia, anxiety, and nausea. As a result, the FDA recommends a daily intake of 400mg for a 150-pound individual. 

However, some sports supplements can have higher caffeine amounts, likely exceeding the FDA-recommended amount. Others may not disclose their caffeine content, so always review the contents of supplements with caffeine to avoid accidental overdose.

FYI: caffeine overdose has been linked to deaths!

Green Tea Extract

Green tea is rich in polyphenols – a group of beneficial compounds that can improve various bodily functions, including brain function, blood sugar levels, digestion, and heart disease.

Green tea extract also contains caffeine and is therefore used as a stimulant to increase alertness. It can also aid weight loss by helping the body burn fats more effectively.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 8 cups of green tea daily is considered safe. Though rare, liver problems have been reported in several people taking green tea products, especially pills.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has a long medical history and is one of the most prominent herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. It's commonly referred to as Indian ginseng and is renowned for its energy-boosting and focus-enhancing abilities.

Indeed, in doses of between 120mg and 1,250mg per day, ashwagandha has been shown to enhance physical performance by enhancing oxygen use during exercise. 

Several other studies support ashwagandha's ability to enhance oxygen consumption in athletes and healthy adults. Good oxygen consumption is necessary for highly active persons because they would otherwise face mortality risks. 

Further, ashwagandha may also boost muscle strength. In a study, participants who took 600mg of ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks displayed more muscle strength than their counterparts who took a placebo.

Moreover, ashwagandha also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties that could be beneficial in dealing with inflammation. Research shows it contains compounds that target inflammatory pathways in the body and may also help reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory proteins like interleukin-10.

It turns out ashwagandha may also benefit cognitive functioning in the areas of reaction time, attention, and performance of cognitive tasks.

Athletes need to sleep well and give their body time to repair. Fortunately, ashwagandha could help in this regard. There's evidence that it could promote restful sleep and boost alertness upon waking up. It may also reduce anxiety and thus help with pre-performance anxiety.

Magnesium

A few servings of foods rich in magnesium can meet an average person's requirement for this vital nutrient. 

Milk, seeds, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fortified foods are some excellent sources of magnesium. Even water (bottled, tap, or mineral) has magnesium.

But why is magnesium important for athletes? Because it plays vital roles in crucial processes such as energy production and nerve and muscle function. There's no fear of getting too much magnesium from regular foods. 

However, with supplements, it's possible to take high doses, which could carry health risks such as diarrhea, muscle cramping, and nausea.

The other concern regarding magnesium supplements is their ability to interact with other medications. For this reason, it's advisable to consult a qualified professional if you're contemplating taking magnesium supplements.

Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB)

Research shows that HMB can speed up recovery and reduce muscle protein breakdown during resistance training. Consequently, it's a common ergogenic aid among powerlifters and bodybuilders seeking to enhance performance and build skeletal muscle. It is also shown to enhance muscle strength and aerobic performance.

Food alone cannot provide adequate amounts of HMB for performance, so supplementing is necessary. That's because HMB's main food sources, i.e., avocadoes, catfish, and grapefruit, contain HMB in trace amounts.

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs)

MCTs are fats derived from palm or coconut oil. Unlike conventional dietary fats, MCTs are easier to break down into molecules called ketone bodies. These can generate energy during extreme circumstances, such as when the body's natural energy sources are depleted.

As a result, MCTs can promote weight loss because they are easy to break down. Further, there's evidence MCTs may enhance physical endurance by increasing metabolism and mitochondrial biogenesis. Simply put, MCTs may serve as an alternative energy source during exercise.

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is an amino acid obtained from meat, fish, and poultry. It is also produced in the liver. 

This compound has been shown to enhance physical performance in short, high-intensity activities like short sprints. It may also reduce neuromuscular fatigue.

How does it work? During intense physical activity, the body produces lactic acid as a by-product of the many energy-producing processes. This acid converts to lactate which increases hydrogen ion levels and lowers pH levels in muscles. 

The increased acidity affects the muscles' ability to contract, causing fatigue. 

Beta-alanine may help by increasing the concentration of carnosine in muscles. This reduces lactate buildup during activity, thus reducing overall fatigue. The implication is that athletes can train for longer and thus grow muscles much faster. 

What's more, beta-alanine is considered safe by the International Society of Sports Nutrition when taken at the recommended doses. For athletes, a dose of 4-6g/day for 2-4 weeks can improve performance, especially in high-intensity, short-term activities.

Protein

Supplementing with proteins typically depends on the type of training an athlete undertakes, e.g., resistance or endurance training. Even though protein supplementation doesn't appear to improve performance or enhance strength, it may help reduce muscle damage and soreness. 

Furthermore, high protein consumption may benefit people who engage in certain exercises, such as high-intensity resistance training. This is because the body needs proteins to synthesize new muscles during recovery and growth.

To build muscle mass, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends a daily protein intake of up to 2g/kg of body weight per day. This can be taken in the form of protein-rich foods or protein powder.

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice may help speed up recovery from muscle damage, inflammation, and soreness thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Taken pre-exercise, it may also enhance endurance.

Further, it may help reduce post-workout pain, thus offering a safer alternative to regular NSAIDs.

Fish Oil

Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are key to recovery processes in the body. For example, DHA and EPA are essential fatty acids that support healthy inflammatory responses post-exercise. 

They may help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness often felt a few days after strenuous physical activity (DOMS). As such, omega-3 fatty acids may help athletes recover faster, besides helping build and maintain muscles.

Beetroot Juice

Beetroot is a renowned source of dietary nitrates and antioxidants, which may help enhance performance during endurance activities. Experts believe that beetroot juice can boost stamina, reduce fatigue, and improve oxygen uptake. It has also been found to increase speed and power output in athletes.

Furthermore, its high-antioxidant content helps protect cells from oxidative damage caused by exercise.

Beetroot is also an excellent source of dietary nitrates, a form of nitrogen that helps enhance oxygen delivery to muscles and reduce the amount of oxygen required during exercise.

For athletes and active individuals looking to improve their performance, beetroot juice is one of the best natural sports performance supplements available.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is packed with beneficial electrolytes and minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These substances are essential for muscle function and help prevent dehydration during intense physical activity.

Coconut water can also reduce inflammation and oxidative damage caused by exercise, enabling athletes to maintain peak performance levels for longer.

It’s an excellent source of quick energy as well, thanks to its natural sugar content. Plus, it contains plant compounds such as lauric acid and polyphenols, which may help boost immunity and protect against illness.

Watermelon Juice

Watermelon juice contains l-citrulline, a natural amino acid that helps reduce muscle soreness and fatigue during exercise. It also contains electrolytes, which are essential for staying hydrated during sports activities.

Studies have shown that drinking watermelon juice before an intense workout can help improve performance by increasing endurance, power output, and overall energy levels. Additionally, the antioxidants in watermelon juice can help protect muscles from damage caused by exercise. 

For best results, drink a glass of watermelon juice thirty minutes before your workout and combine it with an appropriate warm-up routine.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is one of the most popular natural sports performance supplements on the market. It boosts energy levels, allowing athletes to train harder and longer.

Studies have also shown that it increases muscle strength, as well as anaerobic power output. Creatine monohydrate is usually taken in powder form, but some products are available in pill or liquid form.

BCAAs

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential nutrients found naturally in food sources like meat, dairy, and legumes. They are also available in supplement form and can be taken before or during exercise to improve performance.

BCAAs have been shown to help reduce fatigue levels, promote muscle growth, and decrease recovery time after exercise. Additionally, they can increase protein synthesis, which helps build muscles and reduce muscle soreness.

BCAAs are particularly beneficial for athletes who engage in intense physical activity, as they help support energy levels and endurance during exercise. Taking BCAAs can also improve mental focus, helping athletes stay motivated throughout their workouts.

Whey Protein

Another natural supplement that can help improve sports performance is whey protein. Whey protein is a type of protein derived from dairy and contains all of the essential amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair. 

Taking whey protein before or after exercise can help increase muscle mass, reduce recovery time, and reduce fatigue levels. Additionally, it helps support healthy immune system functioning and can improve overall health.

 

How to take Natural Sports Performance Supplements

The most effective way to take natural sports performance supplements is through a renowned on-the-go performance drink - TUNE IN. This is a natural supplement designed to help athletes supercharge their performance and reach their maximum potential.

TUNE IN contains a unique blend of natural ingredients, all chosen to help you perform optimally during intense physical activity. The combination of vitamins and minerals in this supplement helps to boost energy and muscle growth while also replenishing electrolytes lost during exercise.

This supplement also contains beneficial natural ingredients that work in synergy to increase focus and reduce fatigue. They include lion’s mane, cordyceps, Alpha GPC, stevia extract, rhodiola rosea root extract, and ashwagandha extract. 

Lion’s mane and cordyceps have been shown to improve focus and clarity of thought, while Alpha GPC helps to boost energy levels. Rhodiola rosea root extract can also help increase strength and flexibility, while ashwagandha extract has a calming effect on the body.

It also contains BioPerine and TeaCrine, two natural ingredients that boost bio-availability, ensuring your body is able to absorb all the beneficial nutrients from TUNE IN. Order a bottle of TUNE IN today and take your sports performance to the next level.

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The information provided on the VYU blog is intended solely for informational and entertainment purposes. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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