logo

Welcome to Gazelle Nutrition

Working Hours
Monday 09:00 - 17:00 EST
Tuesday 09:00 - 17:00 EST
Wednesday 09:00 - 17:00 EST
Thursday 09:00 - 17:00 EST
Friday Closed
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed

By Appointment Only

Toronto 416-807-9337

Top

5 Sports Supplements that Boost Performance

Gazelle Nutrition Lab / Blog  / 5 Sports Supplements that Boost Performance

5 Sports Supplements that Boost Performance

Cyclist pushing up a mountain. Sports supplements like caffeine and nitrates may help athletes improve their endurance capacité.

Cyclists may benefit from sports supplements. Photo: Marie Westphal

Take your game to the next level with sports supplements that boost performance. Healthy every day eating is number one when it comes to successful sports performance. Period. You can’t beat a poor diet with supplements and vitamin pills, though many athletes try this approach. Even so, some supplements may be useful for the athlete that has checked all of the usual nutrition boxes.

So you’re eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, optimizing your fueling opportunities around exercise and hydrating regularly? To get an extra edge here are five sports supplements you may consider that could enhance your performance.

 

Caffeine

Coffee as a source for caffeine to boost athletic performance.

Coffee as a source of caffeine to boost performance. Photo: Charles Deluvio

Caffeine is a stimulant that offers an improved focus for skill-based activities as well as benefits for endurance. A range of athlete groups uses caffeine successfully, from the recreational marathon runner to the elite baller.

Chances are you have already tried this substance to add zest to your activity, but here we look at a targeted approach to get the most out of your caffeine kick.

Firstly, be mindful of how much caffeine you ingest. Health Canada recommends limiting total daily caffeine to no more than 400 mg a day, or about three 237 ml cups of brewed coffee.

Large amounts of caffeine are not helpful for sports. Studies have found that there is no added benefit to caffeine in quantities over 9 mg/kg body mass (this means about 600 mg for a 150 lb person).

High levels of caffeine can result in unwanted side effects like nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.

Also, some people are slow metabolizers of caffeine. For these people, caffeine does not improve their performance- it often hinders it. How do you know if you are a slow metabolizer? Your best bet is to trial caffeine in practice before competition day. For more on caffeine and sport check out our previous blog “What’s all the Buzz?”.

Recommended use:

  • 3-6 mg/kg of body weight ~60 mins before exercise and, or, 1.5 mg/kg in the latter part of your race or competition. For a 150 lb person, this amounts to about 1 1/2 cups of coffee before exercise (or 200-400 mg of caffeine), and 100 mg in the later stages of a race or a long duration exercise effort.
  • Caffeine works even better when you consume it with a carbohydrate source. So opt to pair your morning joe with foods like bread, cereals, or fruit.

 

Creatine

Chicken as a source of creatine

Chicken as a source of creatine. Photo: Hayley Ryczek

 

Creatine monohydrate supplementation can increase strength and help gain body mass. For this reason, creatine is a popular choice for strength athletes like bodybuilders, CrossFit enthusiasts, sprinters, or football players.

Interestingly, creatine is also essential for brain health and function. Along with its potential role in moderating the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s, creatine may be useful for concussion treatment.

Creatine is a substance that our bodies produce, and we can get from food sources like meat and chicken.

Creatine is changed to creatine phosphate in the body. Creatine phosphate helps generate adenosine triphosphate (or ATP), which is an energy source for our body.

Supplementation increases creatine stores found in muscles. It also enhances the ability to perform repeated sessions of high-intensity movements. With proper loading measures, no adverse effects are seen with long term use; although 600 g – 1000 g (or 1-2 lb.) in weight gain is possible due to water retention.

Recommended use:

Rapid Loading Protocol

4 x 5 g doses/day for five days, followed by 3 g/day maintenance.

Slow Loading Protocol

3 g/day for 28 days.

Maintenance Dose

Ensure your dosage is 3-5 g daily total. Take it after exercise, with carbohydrates.

 

Nitrate

Beets as a source of nitrates to improve breathing efficiency.

Beets are a source of nitrates. Photo: Monika Grabkowska

Nitrates sound fancy, but they are a substance found in many vegetables and are easily added to our diets.

Nitrate enhances nitric oxide availability in our body. Nitric oxide improves how certain muscle fibre types perform and and helps us breath more efficiently.

Dietary intake of nitrate is commonly used for high-intensity endurance exercise, both short and long in duration. Nitrates are a popular supplement choice for runners, rowers, triathletes and cyclists.

Side effects from nitrate supplementation may include GI upset. Natural sources of nitrates include root vegetables and leafy greens (e.g beets, arugula, spinach, and celery). You can also use a commercial beet supplement.

For more about the benefits of nitrates read our previous blog about “5 Smart Foods to Boost your Performance”.

Recommended use:

  • Use a 5-9 mmol (310-560 mg) dose.
  • Benefits are seen 2-3 hours after consumption.
  • Consume nitrates for > 3 days to further enhance performance.
  • You can load with nitrates in advance of a competition. For example, drink 250-350 ml of beet juice twice a day for 4-5 days before a running or cycling race, with the last dose 2.5 hours before competition.
  • Avoid mouthwash when using nitrates. Mouthwash affects your mouth bacterial flora. Nitrates are converted to nitrates by bacteria in your mouth, and then subsequently into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is what gives you your performance boost.

 

Sodium Bicarbonate

 

Surprisingly, sodium bicarbonate, or good old baking soda, is also a performance enhancer. Sodium bicarbonate acts as a blood buffering agent and is helpful for high-intensity exercise lasting less than 10 minutes.

Sodium bicarbonate is especially helpful during the latter part of a hard effort.  Track athletes, track cyclists, and rowers are athlete groups that may use sodium bicarb.

GI upset, most commonly diarrhea, is a common side effect of sodium bicarbonate. To reduce discomfort, try using this supplement with a carb-based meal and split dosages up over time. Also, the “sodium citrate” form may be better suited for those with extreme GI sensitivities.

Recommended use:

  • Use 2-0.4 g/kg body weight 60-150 minutes before exercise.
  • Split doses should be taken within 30-180 minutes.

Another option:

Serial loading: 3-4 smaller doses/day for 2-4 days before an event

 

Beta-alanine

Grilled fish as a source of beta alanine.

Grilled fish is a source of beta-alanine. Photo: Anton Nikolov

Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. Meat, poultry, and fish are all good sources of beta-alanine.

Beta-alanine, with histidine, helps produce carnosine. You find carnosine in brain and muscle tissues. When we exercise intensely our muscles produce lactic acid. Lactic acid build-up can limit our performance. One of the roles of carnosine is to reduce lactic acid in the muscles.

Taking a beta-alanine supplement increases the available carnosine in your muscles. As a result, beta-alanine increases your capacity for intense exercise and reduces your fatigue. It improves your endurance with high-intensity exercise.

Beta-alanine benefits continuous and intermittent exercise that lasts between 30 seconds – 10 minutes in length. Possible side effects may include skin rashes.

Recommended use:

  • ~65 mg/kg body weight total daily.
  • Doses should be taken in a split-dose regimen (E.g. 0.8 – 1.6 g every 3 – 4 hours).

 

These are five examples of supplements that may be useful to use along with a healthy diet. Each of these supplements has been well studied. Even so, know before diving in, individual responses and side effects may vary.  Try these supplements during regular training, well ahead of your competition to see how you respond. Also, note that youth athletes should avoid supplements. If you want more about how to weigh the benefits of supplements versus food read our previous blog. For more information, about how to incorporate sports supplements into your training seek the assistance of a local sports dietitian. Happy training!

 

Source

  1. Maughan RJ, Burke LM, Dvorak J, Larson-Meyer DE, Peeling P, Phillips SM, Rawson ES, Walsh NP, Garthe I, Geyer H, Meeusen R, van Loon LJC, Shirreffs SM, Spriet LL, Stuart M, Vernec A, Currell K, Ali VM, Budgett RG, Ljungqvist A, Mountjoy M, Pitsiladis YP, Soligard T, Erdener U, Engebretsen L. IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Apr;52(7):439-455. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099027. Epub 2018 Mar 14. PMID: 29540367; PMCID: PMC5867441.

 

Nutrition planning is integral to achieve your optimal athletic performance. Gazelle Nutrition Lab delivers one-on-one or group nutrition counselling and consulting to both recreational and high-performance athletes. In addition, the Gazelle Blog is a free resource for healthy recipes and health tips. Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch!

Share
blank
Ashley Leone

Ashley is a Sports Dietitian and Owner of Gazelle Nutrition Lab. Ashley provides nutrition advice and plans to athletes and everyday active people alike. Her goal is to help fuel your inner athlete and put good sense back into eating. Ashley is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable nutrition specialist, and has been a Registered Dietitian for almost 20 years.

No Comments

Post a Comment

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.