Supplements for enhancing performance and energy levels
As we kick off the new year, many of us are looking to reach new fitness and weight loss goals.
We strongly believe you cannot out supplement a bad diet. The food we eat matters. But supplements also have their place in our lives.
In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, supplements can enhance your progress and set you up for success. This can be especially beneficial in times of stress, injury, or increased workouts.
Check out some of our favorite supplements for the new year to enhance performance, increase energy levels, and support your weight loss goals.
Whether you are looking to gain muscle, increase your fitness capacity, or promote fat burning and weight loss, there are certain supplements that can enhance and support your goals. Read some of our recommendations below that are popular among fitness enthusiasts and athletes.
Branched-chain amino acids are specific amino acids that can accelerate recovery and muscle repair after workouts. These amino acids are leucine, iso-leucine, and valine. You have probably seen these in many workout supplements.
Studies have shown an increase in muscle growth, quicker recovery, reduced muscle soreness, enhanced performance, and reduced fatigue with BCAA supplementation. It may also benefit weight loss as it can increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass. You can use BCAAs before workouts to reduce muscle breakdown and increase energy, or after workouts to promote muscle growth.
BCAAs have also been shown to have numerous health benefits such as improving liver health, especially in certain conditions like cirrhosis, hepatic encephalopathy and liver cancer.
You can find higher levels of BCAAs in foods like free-range eggs, wild salmon, organic dairy, and meats, or you can supplement if you are highly active or don’t get enough through your diet.
L-glutamine is essentially a conditional amino acid, meaning it is necessary in times of injury, illness, poor diet, or muscle wasting. It is also the most abundant amino acid found in the bloodstream.
Glutamine supplementation may accelerate post-workout recovery, promote weight loss, boost athletic performance and metabolism, and reduce the susceptibility of infections in cases of increased training.
Glutamine has many more benefits than just fitness performance; it has also been shown to reduce cravings, support gut health, improve immunity, regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, and promote brain health.
It is a common treatment in intestinal permeability as it provides the best fuel source for the intestinal cells and thus improves healing of the intestinal tract. Glutamine has also been shown to be useful in cases of IBS and inflammatory bowel disease.
During times of illness, glutamine can improve your body’s ability to fight infections and disease by boosting immune cells like T-helper cells.
L-glutamine could also benefit individuals with diabetes, obesity, and cravings as it stabilizes blood glucose and improves insulin sensitivity, whilst improving fat burning and increasing resting metabolic rate.
The body can make its own glutamine, but when it is unable to produce enough you can find this amino acid in food sources like bone broth, grass-fed beef, spirulina, and organic dairy products.
Energy and stress
Are you constantly drained and moody? Does exercise leave you feeling depleted? Do you have trouble getting up in the morning?
Fatigue can be due to many reasons, one of them being nutrient deficiencies. Learn about some of our favourite vitamins and minerals to keep your energy levels soaring this winter.
This group of vitamins is involved in many bodily reactions such as metabolizing foods into energy, synthesizing neurotransmitters, maintaining a healthy metabolism, supporting the adrenal glands, especially in times of stress, and improving liver detoxification.
As most of us are chronically stressed, b-vitamins can be very helpful in managing anxiety as well as supporting the adrenal glands, which can become overtaxed and burdened with emotional stress as well as physical stressors, like intense exercise. This can result in fatigue, insomnia, and mood imbalances.
If you find you are increasingly tired, suffer from anemia, follow a vegan diet, or experience lowered mood, high stress, or poor focus, then you may benefit from a b-vitamin complex as a supplement.
How to get more b-vitamins in your diet? Choose foods like organ meats, wild salmon, grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, legumes, and leafy greens.
If you choose to supplement, always look for a brand that includes the active forms of the b-vitamins to improve assimilation and to get the most health benefits.
Another sign of fatigue, lethargy, or low mood could mean an iron deficiency. Especially common among women with regular cycles, excessive bleeding, and among vegans, iron is a vital trace mineral that is found in every cell in the body.
Some symptoms of low iron status include paleness, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Iron can benefit your fitness goals, if you are deficient, because it raises energy levels by increasing oxygen-carrying capacity to your cells, improving muscle function and movement, reducing symptoms like restless leg syndrome and promoting brain function.
Top iron-rich foods include liver, spirulina, grass-fed beef, lentils, sardines, black beans, and spinach. It is also recommended to include vitamin C rich foods or supplementation to increase iron absorption.
Before supplementing, always check with your health care practitioner and conduct testing to get a better idea of your levels for proper supplementation and to avoid toxicity.
Under periods and conditions of stress, vitamin C is a commonly depleted vitamin. As an essential vitamin with antioxidant properties, it is vital for the proper functioning of the adrenal glands, as well as for reducing inflammation, and improving cardiovascular health by reducing blood vessel constriction and promoting vasodilation.
Vitamin C supplementation may be useful in boosting your immune system during the winter months or when under chronic stress, in improving iron status if low, in increasing resilience against stress, accelerating wound healing, providing antioxidant benefits to combat free radicals and improving heart health, and improving energy levels by supporting the adrenal glands.
Eat plenty of vitamin C rich foods (look for brightly coloured fruits and vegetables) regularly such as kiwifruit, bell peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, sauerkraut, and mangos.
When supplementing, look for flavonoids included in the formula and better-absorbed forms of Vitamin C such as Ester-C and liposomal. This will minimize gastrointestinal distress and increase utilization in the body. For best results, you may want to supplement every three hours or so, especially during times of illness, as vitamin C is used up quickly in the body.
Recovery and inflammation
Today we are seeing increased levels of inflammation due to poor diet, high stress, and lack of sleep, to name a few reasons.
Inflammation is the predominant factor in chronic disease and illness.
Exercise, though beneficial, does initiate an inflammatory response in the body, which is why calming inflammation through diet, lifestyle, and supplementation is so important.
This will result in increased performance, growth, recovery, and overall improved health status.
Omega 3 fatty acids are becoming increasingly popular as a supplementation, however, it is still a very common deficiency nowadays with most people consuming none to very little of these fats.
With the average diet being high in omega 6 fatty acids (found in hydrogenated vegetable oils and processed foods), compared to omega 3 fatty acids, this can result in raised inflammation and oxidative stress, increasing the risk of health problems, accelerated aging, and chronic disease.
Research has shown significant benefits for brain health such as optimizing brain performance and reducing the risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer's, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and memory loss.
Other health benefits include lowering triglycerides, regulating cholesterol, reducing PMS-like symptoms and menstrual cramps, supporting healthy skin and slowing aging, lowering blood pressure, reducing fat mass (especially around the abdomen), and improving joint and bone health.
This makes it a great supplement for athletes to reduce inflammation and for those looking to improve their cardiovascular health or reduce symptoms of joint pain and arthritis.
You can find omega 3 fats in fish, and plant foods like flax, walnuts, chia, and algae. However, the conversion rate in vegan sources isn’t as high or as effective, which means you will need to take a lot more.
Omega 3 fats include specific fatty acids that are called EPA & DHA.When looking at fish or algae supplements, you want to be paying attention to the ratio and dosing of these specific fatty acids, which carry the health benefits. Dosing usually varies between 500-4000 mg depending on your health status and lifestyle.
Always make sure you are choosing a good quality supplement that includes third-party testing to ensure you are not ingesting heavy metals and pollutants. Some good food sources include wild salmon, anchovies, sardines and mackerel.
Magnesium is a superhero mineral as it is involved in so many processes in the body.
Today, magnesium is one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in our society, which means you need to be including magnesium-rich foods into your daily diet and you may, most likely, benefit from supplementation.
Easily depleted by medications, stress, excess sweating and lack of sleep, you can see why this mineral is the second most common deficiency, after vitamin D.
Magnesium plays an important part in energy production in the body, thus it can improve symptoms such as anxiety, depression and fatigue. Other benefits include improved heart health, detoxification and brain function, and reduced cortisol levels during stressed states.
If you experience muscle spasms, cramping, or soreness, magnesium may be a great supplement for you! Magnesium also supports sleep by relaxing muscles and quieting an overactive mind.
Some good food sources of magnesium include spinach, swiss chard, black beans, raw cacao and almonds.
If you suffer from insomnia or leg cramping during the night, you can supplement with magnesium in the evening to improve symptoms. Magnesium glycinate is a highly absorbable form that is less likely to have a laxative effect, like citrate or oxide can.
Electrolytes are specific nutrients that are critical to proper body functions, like maintaining heartbeat, nerve functioning, blood pressure and muscle movements. The major electrolytes include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphate and chloride.
Exercise, especially vigorous exercise in hotter climates, can deplete electrolyte stores through sweat, resulting in symptoms like fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, dehydration, insomnia, dizziness, and decreased focus. This is even more important if you aren’t eating a balanced diet, experience hormonal imbalances, suffer from kidney disease, or take certain medications or antibiotics that can cause fluid loss.
So, how can you make sure you replenish your electrolyte stores? Include electrolyte food sources into your diet, especially post-workout, like coconut water, celery, watermelon, cucumber, or kiwifruit. You can also find electrolyte supplements (great for on-the-go or endurance type workouts).
And of course, always hydrate with a pure, clean water source!
The active component of the root turmeric, curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory that is widely used to treat chronic pain and inflammatory conditions like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, bowel disease and asthma.
In terms of exercise, how can curcumin help? As mentioned, exercise is a stressor and creates inflammation. By including curcumin into your routine, you can help reduce your risk of chronic disease and injury as well as enhance brain function, meaning improved performance and faster recovery time.
You can add turmeric to your meals for added benefits, but for therapeutic effects you will want to choose a good quality supplement that uses advanced technology to increase bioavailability and absorption.