Half of the year 2020 has come and gone. Whether you have been keeping up with your workout regime and working hard to achieve your ideal body shape or just make up your mind to start hitting the gym for the sake of shed off the stubborn belly fat, you’re most likely heard about or came across sport nutrition products such as protein powders and amino acid supplements.
The main factors that lead to the use of sport nutrition supplements among athletes and fitness enthusiasts are none other than to gain lean muscle mass or building muscle in a fast and effective way, to accelerate muscle recovery after strenuous exercises and to achieve optimum performance.
Dozens of supplements are available in the market and claimed to help in achieving your fitness goals. However, if you do not start understanding the functions of the ingredients, you’ll most likely go for supplements that are commonly taken by others without a clue of whether it is the right one for you.
Here, we are keeping it simple and sharing the information of the top choice Nourished’s sport nutrition supplements as a guide for all beginners as well as avid fitness enthusiasts.
Protein is made up of amino acids and performs various roles in the human body such as promote growth, repair damaged cells and tissues.1 Adequate protein intake helps to promote good athletic performance and injury prevention.
To perform well and accelerate muscle recovery, the daily protein requirement for athletes or regular gym-goers are comparably higher than that of a healthy non-physically active individual. Inarguably, the best way to supply your body with protein is through diets such as the high-quality animal proteins - lean meat, fish, eggs, the plant source proteins – tofu, beans, lentils, green peas and dairy products. However, it is not always feasible to get an adequate supply of protein exclusively from food due to difficulties in preparation, lack of time or the volume required to reach optimal doses.
Protein powder supplements have come into rescue in this context. With the high demands of vegetarian-friendly or non-animal-based products, pea protein isolate is gaining popularity among athletes and regular gym-goers.
Pea protein contains 85% of proteins and rich in essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) which are important for the formation of muscle protein.2 Whey protein supplement has always been the first choice for active population due to its remarkable amino acids profile, easily digested and its effects on gaining muscle mass and strength. However, interesting findings from two studies suggested pea protein to be as effective as whey protein in building muscle mass and strength.2,3
When is the best time to take it?
To secure an efficient supply of amino acids, protein should be consumed regularly during the day. On the workout days, take it within an hour before and after the training session. On the non-workout days, take it once in the morning and once in the evening in between meals.
There are 20 types of amino acids that act as a building block for protein in our body. 9 of the 20 amino acids are known as essential amino acids (EAAs). Unlike the nonessential amino acids, EAAs are not produced naturally by the human body. Hence, it needs to be obtained through diets or supplementation. Additionally, as the human body does not store amino acids, daily intake of it is exceptionally important for the production of protein, especially among active individual.
BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acids which are referring to 3 EAAs, namely leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids account for almost 50% of the muscle protein EAAs.4
Studies had shown that supplementation of BCAA helps to increase muscle mass through the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis in which the presence of leucine in BCAA is suggested to be the primary factor of the effect.5,6 However, BCAA supplements alone if not taken with a complete protein such as whey protein and pea protein isolate with an adequate EAA content may not adequately stimulate the synthesis of muscle protein.6
Prolonged exercises or resistant training lead to muscle damage. BCAA has been tested in several studies and proved to contribute positive outcome in reducing muscle damage by reducing the protein breakdown and decrease the concentration of blood creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase whereby both are the indicators that reflect the degree of muscle damage.7-10
Exercises caused a rise in the neurotransmitter serotonin level in your brain. An increased level of this particular chemical produce by the brain nerve cells is believed to cause fatigue. A study demonstrated that oral intake of BCAA before an exercise session showed a reduction in serotonin concentration, thereby reducing exercise-induced fatigue.11
When is the best time to take it?
Whether you’re taking BCAA supplement for muscle gain or reducing muscle soreness and fatigue, it is recommended to take it before and after your exercises or workout. It is wise to pair it with other essential amino acids, such as those found in the whey or pea protein isolate for a maximum result.
Carnitine is an amino acid produced by the liver and kidney as well as stored primary in the skeletal muscle (98%).12 Acetyl L-carnitine is another types of L-carnitine with an acetyl group attached to it and thought to be a more easily absorbed from the gut and across the blood-brain barrier.13
L-carnitine plays an important role in transporting fatty acids into the powerhouses of cells (mitochondria) to be burned for energy. Due to its ability to burn fat and produce energy, L-carnitine / Acetyl L-carnitine is commonly seen in weight loss and sport nutrition supplements.
Clinical studies had demonstrated the positive impacts of L-carnitine supplementation in enhancing athletic performance and recovery from strenuous exercise. An early study conducted in 1994 found that orally intake of L-carnitine during a 4-week training period in well-trained athletes showed improvement in Vo2max (maximal oxygen consumption) which suggested an improvement in exercise performance.14 Another study also indicated the supplementation of L-carnitine by 24 male resistance-trained subjects enhanced exercise performance in 1 week.15 In the case of supporting recovery, supplementation of L-carnitine helps to reduce tissue damage and muscle soreness by improving blood flow and delivering oxygen to muscle tissue during and after exercise.16
When is the best time to take it?
You may choose to take L-carnitine supplements early in the morning with breakfast and with lunch. Alternatively, you may also take it 60min to 90min before your workout or exercise.
The human skeletal muscle generates free radicals. Under strenuous exercises, the muscle tissues produced even more of these free radicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). Long-term exposure to high levels of ROS possesses adverse effects on muscle function and exercise performance.17
Green tea extract is rich in polyphenols such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is known for its anti-oxidative properties. A study has shown that the supplementation of green tea extract among male athletes for 15 days had resulted in lower oxidative stress and muscle damage as compared to the placebo group.18 The same beneficial effects of green tea extract were also demonstrated in other human studies which further suggested green tea extract to be a potential supplement for improving performance and muscle recovery.19,20
Another well-documented benefit of green tea is on its fat-burning effects. Intake of green tea supplement has found to increase body fat burning and decrease waist circumference as well as triglyceride levels in overweight subjects.21-24 These studies emphasized the greater positive changes in the combination of green tea extract supplementation and exercises. Hence, there’s no shortcut to weight loss!
When is the best time to take it?
Take green tea supplement before your exercises for better fat-burning effect and reducing the muscle damage due to prolong strenuous exercises.
As green tea contains caffeine, you may also take it early in the morning for an energy kick. If you do not wish to stay up late, try to avoid taking it before or near to your sleeping time.
Supplements for General Health
The protein powder and amino acid supplements have been studied profoundly on its impact on muscle formation, recovery and performance enhancement.
The notion of gaining muscle mass in a fastest and effective way has disregarded the importance of supplying the body with the fundamental nutrients to perform at its best.
For example, the supplementation of multivitamins and minerals is crucial for athletes and active gym-goer who are on restricted or special diets such as vegan and vegetarian.
Glucosamine and chondroitin have shown to reduce joint pain and delay the progression of knee osteoarthritis in athletes.25,26
High-intensity exercises inflict stresses on the body to some degree and eventually compromise an active individual’s immune health in long-run. The antioxidants such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid and others may protect against exercise-induced oxidative stress.27-29 Besides, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has concluded the beneficial effects of supplementing probiotics in improving immune function and may reduce the number of sick days of an athlete when training or during competition.30
Eating a balanced, nutrient and energy-dense diet, drink sufficient amount of water and obtaining adequate rest are the best ways to help you perform better and recover faster. Supplementation can be a good option when diet alone is insufficient to fulfil the basic nutrient needs. If you have doubt, always speak with a health professional before taking any supplements.
- Kreider RB, Campbell B. Protein for exercise and recovery. Phys. Spotsmed. 2009;37(2):13-21.
- Babault N, Paizis C, Deley G, Guerin-Deremaux L, Saniez MH, Lefranc-Millot C, et al. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. whey protein. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12:3.
- Banaszek A, Townsend JR, Bender D, Vantrease WC, Marshall AC, Johnson KD. The effects of whey vs. pea protein on physical adaptations following 8-weeks high-intensity functional training (HIFT): a pilot study. Sports. 2019;7(12): doi:10.3390/sports7010012
- Santos CS, Nascimento FE. Isolated branched-chain amino acid intake and muscle protein synthesis in humans: a biochemical view. Einstein (Sao Paulo). 2019;17(3):eRB4898.
- Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Nakai N, Nagasaki M, Harris RA. Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. J Nutr. 2004;134(6 Suppl):1583S-1587S.
- Jackman SR, Witard OC, Philp A, Wallis GA, Baar K, Tipton KD. Branched-chain amino acid ingestion stimulates muscle myofibrillar protein synthesis following resistance exercise in humans. Frontiers in Physiology. 2017;8: doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00390
- MacLean DA, Graham TE, Saltin B. Branched-chain amino acids augment ammonia metabolism while attenuating protein breakdown during exercise. The American Physiological Society. 1994:E1010-E1022.
- Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9(20): https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-9-20
- Kim DH, Kim SH, Jeong WS, Lee HY. Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. J Exerc. Nutr. Biochem. 2013;17(4):169-180.
- Foure A, Bendahan D. Is branched-chain amino acids supplementation an efficient nutritional strategy to alleviate skeletal muscle damage? A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(1047): doi:10.3390/nu9101047
- AbuMoh’d MF, Matalqah L, Al-Abdulla Z. Effects of oral branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) intake on muscular and central fatigue during an incremental exercise. Journal of Human Kinetics. 2020;72:69-78.
- Grivas GV. The role of L-carnitne in distance athletes. International Journal of Sports Science. 2018;8(5):158-163.
- Mendelson SD. Metabolic syndrome and psychiatric illness: interactions, pathophysiology, assessment and treatment. United States: Academic Press, 2008. Chapter 10: Nutritional supplements and metabolic syndrome; p.141-186.
- Arenas J, Huertas R, Campos Y, Diaz AE, Villalon JM, Vilas E. Effects of l-carnitine on the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex and carnitine palmitoyl transferase activities in muscle of endurance athletes. FEBS Letters. 1994;341:91-93.
- Jacobs PL, Goldstein ER, Blackburn W, Orem I, Hughes JJ. Glycine propionyl-l-carnitine produces enhanced anaerobic work capacity with reduced lactate accumulation in resistance trained males. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2009;6(9): doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-9
- Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, Rubin MR, Gomez AL, Ratamess NA, Gaynor P. L-carnitine l-tartrate supplementation favourably affects markers of recovery from exercise stress. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002;282:E474-E482.
- Reid MB. Redox interventions to increase exercise performance. J Physiol. 2016;594(18):5125-5133.
- Machado AS, da Silva W, Souza MA, Carpes FP. Green tea extract preserves neuromuscular activation and muscle damage markers in athletes under cumulative fatigue. Frontiers in Physiology. 2018;9:doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.01137
- Da Silva W, Machado AS, Souza MA, Mello-Carpes PB, Carpes FP. Effect of green tea extract supplementation on exercise-induced delayed onset muscle soreness and muscular damage. Physiol Behav. 2018;194:77-82.
- Sadowska-Krepa E, Domaszewski P, Pokora I, Zebrowska A, Gdanska A, Podgorski T. Effects of medium-term green tea extract supplementation combined with CrossFit workout on blood antioxidant status and serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor in young men:a pilot study. 2019;16:13.
- Cardoso GA, Salgado JM, Cesar MC, Donado-Pestana CM. The effects of green tea consumption and resistance training on body composition and resting metabolic rate in overweight or obese women. J Med Food. 2013;16(2):120-127.
- Gahreman D, Wang R, Boutcher Y, Boutcher S. Green tea, intermittent sprinting exercise, and fat oxidation. Nutrients. 2015;7:5646-5663.
- Gahreman DE, Boutcher YN, Bustamante S, Boutcher SH. The combined effect of green tea and acute interval sprinting exercise on fat oxidation of trained and untrained males. J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2016;20(1):001-008.
- Bagheri R, Rashidlamir A, Ashtary-Larky D, Wong A, Alipour M, Motevalli MS, et al. Does green tea extract enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise on fat loss? Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2020;86(4):753-762.
- Vad V, Hong HM, Zazzali M, Agi N, Basrai D. Exercise recommendations in athletes with early osteoarthritis of the knee. Sports Med. 2002;32(11):729-739.
- Braham R, Dawson B, Goodman C. The effect of glucosamine supplementation on people experiencing regular knee pain. Br J Sports Med. 2003;37(1):45-49.
- Zembron-Lacny A, Lisowska MS, Szygula Z, Witkowski K, Stefaniak T, Dziubek W. Assessment of the antioxidant effectiveness of alpha-lipoic acid in healthy men exposed to muscle-damaging exercise. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009;60(2):139-143.
- Taghiyar M, Darvishi L, Askari G, Feizi A, Hariri M, Mashhadi NS, et al. The effect of vitamin c supplementation on muscle damage and oxidative stress in female athletes: a clinical trial. Int J Prev Med. 2013;4(Supp 1):S16-S23.
- Morawin B, Turowski D, Naczk M, Siatkowski I, Zembron-Lacny A. The combination of α-lipoic acid intake with eccentric exercise modulates erythropoietin release. Biol Sport. 2014;31(3):179-185.
- Jager R, Mohr AE, Carpenter KC, Kerksick CM, Purpura M, Moussa A, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: probiotics. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2019;16(62):https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-019-0329-0