Step into a sports nutrition store and you will be met with wall to wall options of supplements you’ve never heard of. From bizarre new fads that promise to transform you completely in under a month to the complex scientific variations on old standbys like protein powder. Each of those supplements will tout itself as essential to any serious athlete, but what’s the truth? Sure we can get the commonly used supplements like creatine and multivitamins, but what about the more esoteric stuff? What is of actual value, and what’s a gimmick?
First, let’s state a basic truth
These items are called ‘supplements’ because they are meant to supplement your diet; none of them are truly essential, and any well rounded diet rich in protein, fats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and other good sources of nutrition will cover what all these supplements are meant to do. However, we don’t always have the time and energy to prepare rich and nutrient dense meals every day, which is where supplements come in, filling in the gaps when we’re on the run. That said, here are three supplements you might not have heard of that you should check out:
Have you ever gone into the red during an anaerobic exercise and found your muscles cramping up and unable to continue? Beta-alanine can help reduce the effects of acidosis in skeletal muscle, so that you can last a little longer when performing any burst of activity that lasts up to a minute in length. This could be maxing out your reps to brief sprints. A study has also found that Beta-alanine when paired with creatine can also boost muscle gains, so lifters looking to increase strength and power might also want to check it out.
Magnesium & Zinc
These are two minerals that people are often low on whose lack can impair athletic performance. Vegetarians or anybody else that gets little red meat can result in a lack of zinc, while people who train in areas with little sunlight can find themselves deficient in magnesium. Both of these are essential to attaining the best results in training and athletic performance, so if either situation applies to you, be sure to check out a supplement.
Branch-chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
BCAA are three amino acids called valine, isoleucine, and leucine. Together these three have been found to help boost skeletal muscle growth, resulting in increased mass and protein synthesis. Not only that, but a few studies have suggested that BCAA supplementation can lower your fatigue levels during high intensity exercises. However, you can find plenty of BCAA in dairy, so if you drink milk or take whey and casein protein powder you will find your BCAA needs taken care of. If you don’t, and have every other base covered and have hit a plateau, then experimenting with BCAA may be a way to help achieve further gains.