Supplements for athletes

Beware of confusion

It often happens that athletes, both professionals and amateurs, are the targets of criticism regarding their supplementation with doping products.

For the sake of preserving health, it is not preferable to take doping products, it goes without saying that taking anabolic hormones disrupts the natural hormonal system, which can cause health problems .

But a mistake is to confuse the supplements that some athletes take, which are natural (they are found in greater or lesser quantities in raw foods), without danger and which do not disrupt the hormonal system, with anabolic hormones (doping products), illegal, and risky for the body. Often people, and especially those who do not participate in sport, think that taking protein powder or creatine capsules is unnatural, but doping and dangerous. Of course this is a mistake.

If taking doping products consists of directly introducing hormones into the body, a food supplement can for example boost the natural production of hormones in order to increase sports performance and gain in muscle hypertrophy. Supplementing is not “cheating”, but it helps the athlete, who the harder they train, the better they will have to recover.

The benefits of supplementation for athletes

The key to strength, health and muscle gain: recovery

The athlete’s recovery after an effort occurs at several levels: muscle recovery, of the articular system, hormonal, nervous, immune, energy.

The secret to recovery in all its forms is complete nutrition and good rest .

After physical exertion, damaged muscles need to be nourished so that they can rebuild themselves stronger than before (this is what will create muscle hypertrophy, that is, an increase in size muscle cells). They will then need carbohydrates (for the energy reserve of glycogen), proteins and cholesterol. In order to boost the synthesis of ATP (adenosine triphosphate – a molecule that supplies cells with energy, therefore playing an essential role in muscle contraction), the creatine molecule is very interesting.

The joints must be maintained by warming up before exercise, as well as a good posture during weight lifting movements and optimal control during the eccentric phase of the movement. It is essential to stay hydrated. In case of fragile joints (creaking, repeated tendonitis), supplements can make the difference.

Rest is essential for nervous recovery . Be careful with overtraining: plan at least one day of total rest in the week. In case of excessive fatigue, bad mood, or even depression, overtraining is one avenue to explore, but it can also be due to a sluggish metabolism.

Another track concerning excessive fatigue is that of vitamin and mineral deficiencies: athletes have greater nutrient requirements to meet their losses due to their great physical expenditure. Here again, food supplements come into play for the recovery of the athlete, even if before that happens, a nutritional rebalancing is necessary, by consuming more foods rich in the nutrient that is lacking. Assimilation will only get better.

What supplements for the athlete?

There are a multitude of food supplements intended for athletes, and many of them are simple marketing creations with no noticeable effect.

“Health” supplements

Maintaining good health is the primary condition for progressing in the sport you practice. What I call “health supplements” are vitamins, minerals and amino acids which maintain a strong immune system, which help to make the organism function in an optimal way and which reduce or suppress the arrival of weaknesses, diseases (fatigue, depression, cancers, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, etc.):

  • Vitamin D3 , although it is essential, many people are deficient in this vitamin, however important for bone mineralization, but also which decreases the risk of cancers, autoimmune diseases, fights fatigue and depression, especially in winter, where exposure to the sun is insufficient for the body to synthesize vitamin D from it. Its effects are also visible at the cardiovascular level (lower risk of heart attack), at the level of the immune system (against the flu, etc.), against diabetes …
  • Vitamin K2, essential in transporting calcium to the bones, in order to strengthen them and prevent its deposit in the arteries. Vitamin K2 therefore improves arterial flexibility and fights against cardiovascular risks (stroke, heart attack, hypertension). Also by transporting calcium to the bones, vitamin K2 strengthens the bones and decreases the risk of fractures. In the same way as vitamin D, it helps fight against the risk of cancer and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. It is particularly found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and cabbage.
  • Vitamin C , antioxidant, used among other things to protect cells and healing. It is essential for the synthesis of collagen (therefore good for the joints and the skin) and improves the absorption of iron. It is found in abundance in citrus fruits, kiwis, peppers and wild rosehips.
  • Magnesium , known for its role in muscle relaxation, which optimizes recovery, as well as to fight against stress and high blood pressure, but also plays a role in the synthesis of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule that provides the energy used during muscle contraction. It is found in mackerel, dark chocolate, potatoes, cereals and legumes, buckwheat. In case of supplementation, it will be necessary to favor the magnesium citrate or magnesium bisglycinate form, but especially not to consume in the form of magnesium oxide, which is a cheap form of very poor assimilation (as much directly throwing your money out the window).
  • Zinc , is a great support for the immune system, but it is also linked to the production of testosterone, therefore improves sports performance and helps to increase muscle mass. The combined magnesium and zinc (found as ZMA with the addition of vitamin B6 to enhance their effects) are very interesting for recovery and strength gain. Zinc is found in seafood, especially oysters.
  • Glutamine , an amino acid that is often used (wrongly) for the simple purpose of restoring muscles, but which is in fact very interesting for the immune system because it nourishes the intestines, this which is very useful when you are prone to inflammations of the digestive tract.
  • Coenzyme Q10 , a powerful antioxidant, whose natural production by the body tends to decrease with age, has very interesting properties in sportsmen and the sedentary: increase in resistance and reduction of fatigue, but also improvement of heart health, fight against hypertension and against the harmful effects of age (skin quality).
  • Resveratrol , helps to optimize a favorable testosterone / estrogen balance for building muscle and eliminating fat in men. It would also have positive effects against the development of cancer cells.

Joint supplements

The practice of strength sports puts a strain on the joints. It is not uncommon to have pain in the knees, tendonitis in the shoulder or elbow. It is essential to warm up well before a workout, to stay hydrated, and to execute the right movements precisely, so as not to damage the joints. Taking preventive food supplements with the aim of strengthening them is particularly essential in the PTO cycle, and are of great help during recovery from an injury (tendonitis for example):

  • Peptides of collagen (hydrolyzed collagen) and Glycine: These supplements are both used to synthesize collagen, the component of the joints. They are very useful in tendinopathies because they strengthen the joint as a whole, including the tendons. Collagen has also been shown to have very positive effects for people with osteoarthritis.
  • Glucosamine , Chondroitin , molecules that help maintain joint integrity, prevent atherosis, help regain joint mobility and have an anti-inflammatory effect. The two work in synergy.

“Booster” supplements

Gaining energy during training allows you to be more concentrated when practicing exercises, to explode your performance, to push back fatigue, in short to surpass yourself. Taking supplements that provide energy during training is useful for gaining strength, endurance, heart condition during intensive exercise, but also for mass gain:

  • Caffeine / Theine , Guarana : drinking coffee before training is very effective, but for those who do not like coffee, a supplement in caffeine or guarana extract (berry from the Amazon rainforest) is useful to give the energy needed to surpass oneself.
  • BCAA and Beta alanine: BCAAs (branched chains of amino acid) have been shown in studies to help ward off fatigue during training. The desired effects are identical for taking beta alanine. That said, I do not necessarily recommend their consumption. BCAAs (amino acids valine, leucine and isoleucine) can cause depletion of other amino acids if consumed in isolation; this can prevent the signal from muscle protein synthesis. Although, in all fairness, we are not going to lose muscle because we consume BCAAs, we are not going to find a noticeable positive effect that justifies the cost of BCAAs. You might as well eat a good steak before your training: more efficient and less expensive.

Strength supplements

By “strength supplement” I mean supplement to develop the capacity for muscle contraction; you should know that strength is acquired through many factors: recruitment of fibers by the nervous system (leading to contraction), energy, muscle mass … So to gain strength, we can not rely on one type food supplement, but it is necessary to develop a set of qualities, thanks to a suitable diet (balanced in the three main families of nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, lipids; making sure to have a sufficient supply of minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium) , by building muscle mass; by consuming foods with a booster effect on effort and concentration such as coffee or tea, etc.):

  • Creatine , participating in the synthesis of ATP, therefore improving muscle contraction, helps build strength for short repetitions.
  • Omega 3, which improves the sensitivity of cells to nerve transmission. Finally … except that: omega 3 food supplements (fish oils / krill oil) are of poor quality: in fact, omega 3 are unsaturated fatty acids which are very unstable and sensitive to heat, which has as a result, omega 3 in capsule form are oxidized, and will have long term deleterious effects at worst, just ineffective at best. So do not consume omega 3 capsules. Instead, be sure to eat fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings) on a regular basis, which will provide good fatty acids, limiting their oxidation thanks to the rest of the composition. fish that keeps them better.

Supplements for mass

  • L-citrulline / Arginine : these are called NO (nitric acid) booster, which promotes vasodilation, and therefore muscle oxygenation. Taking a citrulline or arginine supplement before training produces a good feeling due to better congestion. Be careful though, arginine is sometimes accused of being very ineffective, which is why it will be better to use L-citrulline.

Fat loss supplements

Losing fat starts with a change in your diet: calorie reduction and food rebalancing (learning to eat healthier and more balanced), while consuming enough vitamins and minerals, proteins and lipids, fiber and by continuing to hydrate abundantly. Taking a supplement will not replace real professional support which, through better nutrition, will improve a metabolism deteriorated by poor lifestyle habits. And the most important: supplementation cannot replace the basic principles of fat loss: calorie deficit + healthy lifestyle + consistency and patience.

  • Caffeine / Theine , Guarana : these boosters have a thermogenic action, that is to say they will increase the metabolism which will require more energy, therefore will allow you to burn more calories for the same effort in comparison with a slower metabolism. They also help in the breakdown of lipids stored in adipose tissue.
  • Carnitine : In theory, carnitine helps transport lipids to the mitochondria to provide the body with energy. In practice, the effect is not very visible, but carnitine has many benefits such as improving endurance during training, or fighting against cognitive decline. Supplementation can be considered, but to see the effects on fat loss you have to be a mouse!
  • Chromium : Chromium picolinate regulates insulin secretion, which helps manage carbohydrates in the body. This can be useful for people with carbohydrate intolerance for example.
  • Choline : prevents the accumulation of hepatic fat and helps to break down liver fat.

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