Supplements are a great way to support a balanced diet, give your workouts a little extra pep, and replenish key vitamins and minerals lost during exercise. Eating a colourful and well-rounded diet should give you the nutrients your body needs. However, people who regularly exercise at a high intensity may find certain parts of their diet need some added support.
Why take fitness supplements?
If you’re thinking about adding a powder, pill, or shake to your diet, remember; the decision to take sports supplements (or not take them) is a personal one. Just because all your friends are using a pre-workout powder doesn’t mean you need to also. On the flip side, you shouldn’t feel shame for choosing to add some supplements to the mix. Sports supplements are extremely common and help a lot of people achieve their health goals.
Anyone with concerns about supplements should consult a medical professional before trialling any new products.
If you’ve spent a bit of time in the gym, chances are you will have heard the term “stack” bandied about. Put simply, a “supplement stack” is the name given to the sports supplements an individual chooses to take.
Many supplement stores have pre-made stacks available for purchase. Each caters to several different goals (fat loss, muscle growth, plant-based, etc). Another option is to have a health professional design an individual stack to support you in achieving your goals in the gym.
Read on to learn about 10 of the most popular sports and fitness supplements on the market today (listed in no particular order).
Sports gels are concentrated carbohydrate supplements. The small sachets of gel are typically used by endurance and distance athletes who need a quick hit of carbohydrates to replace the glycogen lost during exercise.
Runners Connect says the glucose inside gels travels to both the muscles and the liver. The latter of which will swiftly send a burst of energy to your brain, essentially waking you up. The rate of absorption will vary from person-to-person. Generally, however, people using gels for the first time should take them after 45 to 60 minutes of exercise.
Consider leaving at least an hour between gels from that point onward. The timing will need to be varied or adjusted to suit individual needs.
2. Electrolyte drinks
The old “blue Powerade hangover cure” is well and good. However, electrolyte drinks are intended to replenish what’s lost during extended periods of physical activity. Common electrolytes include calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium.
These drinks have a variety of such charged minerals added to them, and help to replace fluid and minerals lost during intense exercise. They can also be beneficial for replenishing fluids after a bout of diarrhoea or vomiting.
You may want to consider adding an electrolyte-enhanced drink to your workout regime. They're ideal if you sweat a lot, workout in hot environments, or train for more than an hour at a time.
Electrolyte drinks come in a variety of flavours and can be purchased in powder or liquid form.
3. Protein powder
It doesn’t take a whole lot of research to realise protein powders are, by far, the most popular sports supplements on the market. The amino acids found in protein powders are easily absorbed by your body, making them a great option for people wanting to refuel quickly after exercise. These powders—whether they’re whey, soy, or pea-based—may also benefit you by:
- Increasing muscle function.
- Helping you reach your recommended daily intake for protein (roughly 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight).
The levels of creatine in your muscles will determine how quickly you recover between sets at the gym. When you recover faster, you’re able to pack more into your workout, which will lead to increased efficiency in the long-term. According to Men’s Health UK, creatine is beneficial to people who regularly partake in high-intensity strength training. This owes to the ways it may improve performance, increase the speed of muscle growth, and reduce fatigue.
5. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
Amino acids are a foundation for all proteins in the body. Three of the 20 amino acids found in the body fall into the BCAA sub-category. Naturally-occurring BCAAs are found in everything from eggs and meat, right through to nuts and seeds. Powdered BCAAs have become popular sports supplements for the way they may prevent muscle breakdown, decrease DOMS, increase stamina, and improve lean muscle mass.
BCAA-based supplements are commonly mixed with other performance-enhancing ingredients (such as caffeine). So, make sure to always check what makes up a product before purchasing.
Glutamine amino acids are yet another building block for protein. The two kinds of glutamine are L-glutamine and D-glutamine—the former being the kind found in supplements and food. L-glutamine is naturally found in foods such as red meat, dairy, corn, eggs, and poultry.
Brands selling L-glutamine powders and/or tablets claim the supplement offers many benefits. It may boost energy levels, decrease muscle breakdown, help with weight loss, and keep your immune system fighting fit, among other benefits. Flavour-free powders easily mix into smoothies, making them the perfect addition to any post-workout protein shake.
7. Fish oil
Supplementing with fish oil—which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (“healthy fats”)—falls into the “as part of a well-rounded diet” category. Why? Because the capsules provide so many more benefits than just those related to exercise. Taking a fish oil supplement may decrease inflammation, support weight loss, reduce blood pressure, and improve bone health.
It’s recommended that adults have two servings of oily fish per week to meet dietary requirements for omega-3 fatty acids. If oily fish isn’t currently a part of your diet, fill the gap with a high-quality fish oil supplement.
8. Mass Gainer
People who struggle to put on weight may find taking a mass gainer beneficial. These products commonly come in powder-form and are filled to the brim with calories. Mass
gainers generally contain more than 1,000 calories per serving. Those calories commonly come from a combination of whey protein, calcium caseinate, carbohydrates such as oat, tapioca and sweet potato, digestive enzymes, and some flavour-enhancers.
Mass gainers won’t be for everyone. For those wanting to increase their weight while maintaining lean muscle mass, it could be a supplement worth investing in.
9. Pre-workout products
If you're hitting the snooze button more frequently than you make it to your morning workout, a pre-workout powder could give you the morning pep you need. The ingredient lists vary between brands, but at their core, these powders commonly contain caffeine, BCAAs, beta-alanine and artificial flavouring.
People who find they’re sensitive to caffeine—for digestive, anxiety, or sleep reasons—should consider whether the negative side effects of a pre-workout are with it. Remember, as with any new sports supplement, it’s worth trialling a small amount first to see how your body reacts and go from there.
If you don’t fancy spending money on yet another supplement, a cup of coffee (caffeine) and a banana (complex carbohydrates) will do the job just fine.
10. Greens powder
Greens powders rose in popularity alongside the “clean eating” movement we’ve observed over the last 10 years. These powders should never be a replacement for your “5+ a day”. However, they are a great solution for people wanting to add an extra boost of greens to their diet.
The ingredients that make up these powders vary between brands but commonly include prebiotics, probiotics, and dark leafy greens and herbs, among other essential nutrients. These fast-absorbing powders may aid digestion, improve energy levels, and support immune function when used as part of a balanced diet.
Find the right supplements online
With Bargain Chemist, order online to have New Zealand’s top sports supplements shipped right to your door! We offer an exceptional range of products to suit any active lifestyle. Find the missing piece of your fitness regimen today!