Nutrition is a staple and a passion for the Reach Outcomes’ team. Above all, a complete and balanced nutritional plan is crucial for an athlete to benefit from our integrated approach. In addition to their nutrition, the implementation of vitamins and supplements can provide athletes with the nutrients they need to perform their best. While there is an extensive list of ergogenic aids athletes can benefit from taking, the Reach Outcomes team researched and compiled a list of six of the best supplements for athletes. All of these supplements are simply recommendations and should be discussed with a doctor before adding these to your nutritional plan.
- Beta-Alanine – This amino acid has been linked to several benefits for athletes, including an increase in exercise performance (Danaher J, Gerber T, Wellard RM, Stathis CG.). Beta-alanine is a supplement that increases carnosine, which in turn reduces acidic buildup in muscles, giving athletes an extended amount of endurance. This reduction in fatigue and muscle soreness lead researchers to determine that this supplement is especially useful for endurance athletes looking to extend their performance times or exert a higher physical output. The opportunity for increased physical performance leads beta-alanine to benefit all athletes, but especially those who perform endurance sports, including distance runners, cyclists, distance swimmers and ball-sport athletes. In fact, a recent study, conducted on cyclists, found that four weeks of beta-alanine intake resulted in a 13 percent increase in aerobic capacity (Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, Wise JA.). Beta-alanine supplements are one of many supplements athletes can use to reach a higher level of performance and ability.
- Creatine – Creatine is one of the most well-known supplements today and is widely used by athletes. Extensive research has led to the general census that this supplement is beneficial in building muscle in strength training (Williams MH, Kreider R, Branch JD.). Creatine naturally occurs in muscle cells as a way to provide muscles energy during high-demand workouts. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) classifies creatine as “the most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement currently available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training.” (Kerksick, Chad M., Colin D. Wilborn, Michael D. Roberts, Abbie Smith-Ryan, Susan M. Kleiner, Ralf Jäger, Rick Collins, et al.) The usage of creatine by athletes not only promotes a higher rate of muscle growth but it has also been linked to performance in high-intensity exercises, enabling athletes to perform more training and thus build more muscle. Creatine is sometimes associated with negative health benefits, however the ISSN has consulted loads of data and has yet to find any findings to support this view. Also significant, creatine is a great supplement for athletes who are primarily or completely plant-based to promote muscle mass growth.
- Nitrates – Nitrate supplements, naturally found in many leafy vegetables, have several benefits that can positively affect athletes and nonathletes alike. Nitrate supplementation is well associated with vasodilation, and in turn, a decrease in blood pressure (Larsen FJ, Schiffer TA, Borniquel S, Sahlin K, Ekblom B, Lundberg JO, Weitzberg E.). While this reduction in blood pressure is a massive benefit to all individuals, consumption of nitrate supplements can exclusively help athletes by increasing work efficiency through higher power output. Nitrate supplementation has been linked to some improvements in athletic performance, averaging 4.4 percent more output. With this form of supplementation, it is best to take it two to four hours prior to exercising to ensure the body breaks down the compound into usable enzymes, which promote the lengthy list of benefits.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is one of the most well known vitamins, both from a natural source and from supplements, but is also one of the most common vitamins for which people are deficient. Vitamin D’s greatest natural source is from the sun, but it can also be absorbed from fish, egg yolks and cheese, as well as vitamin supplements. This vitamin is crucial in building bone strength, a necessity for athletes to perform their best, and is also important for immune system health. Despite the vitamin’s importance, Vitamin D deficiency is a common one with athletes, especially those that play indoor sports like volleyball and basketball, as well as dancers and barbell athletes. With these athletes spending a vast majority of their training and playing time indoors, Vitamin D’s greatest source is often missed. Vitamin D supplements can be extremely beneficial to ensure these athletes counter the missed source of this bone-builder. In fact, a study found that Vitamin D supplementation for ballet dancers both improved strength and reduced their risk of bone injury (Wyon MA, Koutedakis Y, Wolman R, Nevill AM, Allen N.).
- Iron – While the daily intake of the rest of the micronutrients on this list can be supported by supplementation, iron intake is easily improved by introducing a fuller diet. Iron can be obtained from various foods including many meats, beans and spinach. Consumption of iron has loads of benefits to all individuals, especially athletes, as it aids in antioxidants, immune function and helps create red blood cells. Iron deficiency can result in increased fatigue, so a complete diet with plenty of iron is crucial for athletes as they aim to consistently perform at their best. Iron deficiency anemia, a direct result of a lack of red blood cells, is especially common in females. While men are recommended to intake 8 milligrams of iron every day, females are advised to consume 18 milligram per day. For athletic performance and general health alike, consuming the correct amount of iron is highly important.
- Vitamin B12 – Another common deficiency, Vitamin B12 is instrumental in several functions. Vitamin B12 is a large factor in energy metabolism, red blood cell function and, most importantly for athletes, counters megaloblastic anemia, which results in fatigue and grogginess. This vitamin will not result in massive changes for those with a balanced diet and complete consumption, however, it ensures noticeable changes for those suffering from this deficiency, promoting increased energy and muscle endurance (“Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin B12.”). Along with supplements, Vitamin B12 can be consumed in a variety of foods, primarily meats, fish, eggs, dairy and even some breakfast cereals. Vitamin B12 has also been linked to increases in serotonin levels, leading some to believe that it can positively affect mental health, a key factor in optimizing the whole athlete.