A Guide to the Most Popular Sports Supplements



Even if you don’t have aspirations of becoming the next Mr. or Ms. Olympia, or aren’t vying for a spot on the Olympic team for the opportunity to show Usain Bolt how it’s done, there are many reasons athletes are seeking out that “edge” that will help them accomplish their fitness pursuits. Whether your goals are performance related, a quest for the perfect physique, or just the desire to have a high level of health and fitness, we all want to be our best and many of us are willing to spend a little money to get there.

Before you run to the store though, it is very important to become acquainted with the supplements that are out there and know how they work.

Five of the Most Popular Sports Supplements

1. Creatine:  By increasing the amount of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) stored in the muscle, short term creatine supplementation has been reported to improve maximal power and strength, increase the amount of work performed during muscle contractions at a maximal effort, as well as work performed during repetitive sprint performances and single-effort sprint performance.

Side Effects: weight gain

Target group: sports that demand strength and power.

2. Multivitamins: Multivitamins are the most common type of nutritional supplement used by athletes. We all know that vitamins and minerals are essential for our general health and well being and are critical for optimal functioning by our bodies. Although multivitamins have not been reported to greatly influence performance, the main reason for taking them is “insurance for an inadequate diet.” (Wein,17)

Side Effects: gastrointestinal issues, bad taste in your mouth, allergic reactions, overdose

Target group: individuals who feel their diet is lacking (Consult your doctor to help select the best one for you).

3.  Protein: Protein is the key nutrient for maintaining and improving muscular strength, power, and endurance and has been associated with increased rates of protein synthesis, increased lean muscle mass accretion, improved strength, improved recovery from exercise, improved immunity, and a decrease in musculoskeletal injuries.(Campbell, 2)

Side Effects:  may overstress kidneys and liver with overconsumption and long term excessive intake. (Important to calculate needs based on activity), gastrointestinal issues, allergic reactions (esp. with milk based proteins)

Target Group: athletes training at a high intensity, who want to maximize performance and recovery.

 4. Beta-Hydroxy-Beta-Methylbutyrate (HMB): HMB is touted to be one of the most effective muscle building and natural anabolic supplements on the market, as well as an alleged anti-catabolic agent.  It is derived from one of the all important amino acids-leucine. Supposedly HMB’s benefits include increased protein synthesis, fat burning capabilities, delayed onset of muscle soreness, and decreased muscle breakdown due to intense resistance training. However, there is some speculation, and studies are mixed as the effect of HMB in these areas.

Side Effects:  it does not appear that there are any serious side effects associated with HMB as long as proper dosing is followed.

Target Group: high performance athletes looking to increase muscle size and strength who engage in high intensity resistance training.

5. B-Complex Vitamins:  B- vitamins are used by the body to convert carbohydrates and proteins into energy. The B-vitamins also aid in cell production and cell repair. Studies have shown that there may be a link between deficiencies in B-vitamins and reduced high-intensity exercise performance along with the inability to repair and build muscle mass when compared to athletes who did NOT have deficiencies in the B-vitamins.

Side Effects: side effects seem to be minimal when taken in the prescribed dosage. However, there can be side-effects associated with each of the different vitamins therefore it is important to consult your doctor before taking any new supplements.

Target Group: athletes who are limiting caloric intake or who have specialized or restricted eating plans.

 Remember: The FDA does not analyze or regulate dietary supplements. Manufacturers are not required to prove their product’s safety or effectiveness before they put it on the market.  So it is crucial to do your research! Talk to your doctor, read labels, read reviews, find out as much as you can before you buy a supplement, and only buy from companies who adhere to the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for drugs guidelines, which are stricter guidelines. You will be glad you did, especially when you’re the one on the top of the podium!

Campbell, Bill, PhD, CSCS, FISSN. (Downloaded 3-25-2010). Protein Needs for Athletes. NSCA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved Oct. 19, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Protein%20Needs.pdf

Kalman, Douglas S., MS, RD, CCRC, FA. (1-31-2006). Nutritional Supplements. NSCA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved on Oct. 17, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Nutritional%20Supplements.pdf

Quinn, Elizabeth. (April 30, 2011). B-Vitamins and Athletic Performance. Retrieved on Oct. 19, 2011 from http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/sportsnutrition/a/B_Vitamins.htm

 Seedman, Joel and Seedman, Joshua. Beta-hydroxy-Beta-methylbutryrate(HMB). Nutritonal Supplements:Literature Review. RetrievedonOct.19,2011 from  http://www.exrx.net/Nutrition/Supplements/HMB.html

 Wein, Debra, MS, RD, LDN, NSCA-CPT, *D. (April 2006). Sensible Supplements. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal. Volume 5, Number 2, 17-18. Retrieved on Oct. 19, 2011 from  http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/Issues/0502.pdf

photo by: Neeta Lind

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