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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.

Phil Tucker

Author Phil Tucker

Phil Tucker is a novelist and freelance writer who is currently based in Western Massachusetts. Of Brazilian British descent, he grew up in various countries throughout South America and Western Europe, and counts himself fortunate to have experienced different cultures and global points of view, all of which have informed his own. He's an advocate for the Body Beast workout. Click here to learn more, or visit his blog.

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Phil,

    I don’t drink milk, but either way, I like taking BCAAs after fasted training or first thing in the morning during a fasting day.


  • Will2Lose says:

    Very informative. Thanks

  • Kelly Williams says:

    very informative post. Thanks a lot!

  • Анна says:

    I believe that nutritional supplements are necessary. I’ve read
    thousands times that we don’t have enough nutrients from our everyday food.
    Especialy additional nutrition is important if you are doing some sports or
    living active lifestyle. You just have to find a high quality product. I’ve
    searched through internet, studied articles and reviews, and finally found the
    product for myself – Military Grade supplements. My basic criteria was natural
    compounds. Then, I liked the reviews, which were mostly positive, highlighting
    the visible effect of the product. So, I’ve tried them myself. Started with 1
    bottle of their pre-workout formula and was surprised greatly! Almost no
    fatigue after my workouts, lots of energy throughout a day, and even better
    sleep! This product is definitely worth trying.

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