To determine the best supplements for athletic performance, we first need to consider the role of sports nutrition in improving athletic performance.
By developing adequate nutrition plans that correlate with the exercise training programs that an athlete will be undergoing, and subsequently using supplements for athletic performance that fit specific needs, sports nutrition can improve athletic performance and enhance an athlete’s abilities.
Examples include the different nutrition plans that are necessary to promote recovery and adaptation from exercise training plans between macrocycles, mesocycles, and even microcycles. To support both long-term and short-term goals, the general principles of sports nutrition help support physical recovery, physical adaptation to exercise, promote improved body composition (based on the athlete’s individual needs), overall health, and performance in competition.
Not only can periodized approaches to sports nutrition support muscular adaptations, but proper sports nutrition techniques across the different cycles that athletes go through can support adaptations for other tissues (including the brain and vasculature systems), improve tolerance to dehydration, and have additional effects that can improve the health and abilities of an athlete (Jeukendrup, 2017).
An example of the different short and long-term applications of sports nutrition include the modification of eating habits for pre-competition performance success, compared to modifications that take place throughout the course of an off-season, when body composition changes should take place. In the off-season, reducing caloric intake can promote body competition, while in season, caloric intake should match or exceed caloric expenditure to promote recovery and enhance capabilities.
By planning and aligning these various goals, athletes can make substantial improvements over the course of their careers.
Therefore, for an athlete to determine whether or not they need an additional dietary supplement alongside their normal dietary intake, the primary question is whether or not the supplement will provide a legitimate benefit regarding their overall health and athletic performance. There are multiple types of dietary supplements that athletes can consider taking, including macronutrient supplements, micronutrient supplements, and specific ergogenic (performance-enhancing) aids.
Determining whether or not a supplement can be beneficial or necessary then becomes a task of determining the athlete’s current dietary intake or potential dietary intake and the type of physical performance necessary for their sport.
5 Supplements for Boosting Athletic Performance
When considering vitamin and mineral supplements, there is currently no evidence that suggests athletes who are consuming adequate total energy and nutrients for their body size and goals need to intake vitamin and mineral supplements to improve their performance. However, vitamin and mineral supplements may be beneficial for athletes with special dietary restrictions, such as vegan athletes who do not consume enough vitamin B12, or vitamin and mineral supplements for athletes who have reduced their total calorie intake intending to improve their body composition.
However, these are unique scenarios and should not be viewed as evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements are necessary for athletes to optimize athletic performance or overall health.
Macronutrient supplements, specifically protein supplements, are very common amongst athletes, and can play a role in optimizing athletic performance when used to meet necessary protein requirements, and especially when used as a convenient and easily digestible source of protein following training sessions. However, these supplements must still be considered within the overall macronutrient needs of the athlete.
Similarly, carbohydrate supplements or protein and carbohydrate combination supplements can provide convenient sources of macronutrients for athletes who are often busy, but they should not serve as a sole replacement for adequate healthy meals that provide a variety of macro and micronutrients.
Lastly, there are a variety of ergogenic aids that may be beneficial for various athletes. However, their usage and need should be evaluated in a case-by-case situation. Caffeine is the most commonly used ergogenic aid for athletes and can improve performance by stimulating the central nervous system. Other ergogenic aids that have demonstrated either high-quality or promising research and evidence include creatine, beta-alanine, beetroot juice (or dietary nitrate), and sodium bicarbonate.
Examining an athlete’s immediate needs is important in determining whether or not a supplement may enhance athletic performance. For example, an electrolyte formula may be beneficial for enhancing hydration or rehydration for a specific athlete who loses large amounts of sweat each day (Millard-Stafford et al., 2021). At the same time, it would be largely unnecessary for an athlete who is not in the same situation.
Dietary supplements can play a role in enhancing overall health and athlete performance for athletes, but each athlete must examine their dietary intakes and specific needs based on their training and competition style to determine which supplements may be useful.
If you are interested in purchasing a supplement to help improve your athletic performance, here is a bit more about the best supplements for athletic performance:
Dietary Nitrate Supplements (Beetroot Juice)
While Nitrate sounds like a fancy supplement, it is actually the substance that can be found in many vegetables, especially beetroot, which makes it easy to include in our diets. Nitrate is such an effective performance booster because it enhances the nitric oxide in the body, which is responsible for the performance of specific muscle fibers. It also helps us to breathe more efficiently.
Therefore, if you are engaging in high-intensity endurance forms of exercise, then dietary intake of nitrate is a common form of supplement. The type of vegetables that you should include in your diet to boost nitrate intake are root vegetables and leafy greens, such as spinach and celery.
However, you can also get a beet supplement that offers a range of health benefits. If you are interested in purchasing a beetroot supplement to improve your athletic performance, HumanN Super Beets is a great option:
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When you enjoy a cup of coffee at the start of your day you may not consider it to be an athletic performance booster. But caffeine is a supplement that helps to improve focus and boosts endurance. Many different types of athletes used caffeine to their own advantage and consume it strategically to help their performance.
While you may have already tried caffeine to give you more energy and help you to complete that training session, by taking a more structured and strategic approach, you can benefit from caffeine intake even more.
Remember that too much caffeine doesn’t help sports performance, and high levels of intake can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and nausea. So, make sure you stick to caffeine intake guidelines.
For caffeine intake, there are a lot of options. Coffee or pre workout supplements are two of the most common options, but there are pure caffeine supplements as well. Personally, one of my favorite options is RSP Nutrition Amino Lean:
See Also: Best Coffee for Weight Loss
You may be more familiar with sodium bicarbonate as “baking soda,” but it is also a commonly used supplement for those looking to enhance their performance. This is because it acts as a buffering agent and works more effectively in high-intensity exercise that lasts for 10 minutes or longer.
It can also work well towards the end of your workout if you are looking to achieve that last push to the finish line.
Typical athletes that use this supplement include rowers, track cyclists, and track athletes. However, there are some side effects that you should know about, including diarrhea.
To avoid this and to reduce any discomfort, we recommend that you take it alongside a carb-rich meal and split doses over three hours.
Without a doubt, creatine monohydrate is one of the best supplements for athletic performance. Creatine boosts athletic performance by assisting with ATP regeneration, which provides energy for the body. Due to that, creatine supplementation has demonstrated properties including assisting with lean muscle mass development and improvements in physical strength. Creatine monohydrate supplementation is particularly beneficial for strength and power athletes.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the few supplements that has consistently demonstrated beneficial effects in clinical trials. Creatine supplementation also has limited potential side effects.
Personally, I prefer to use RSP Nutrition Creatine Monohydrate:
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Generally, most athletes can get all the protein they need from the diet they follow, but protein powders are also an easy and convenient way to up your protein consumption. However, fresh meat sources of protein that are of a high quality can be expensive when you are eating them as often as an athlete needs to, meaning that protein powder can make for a more affordable alternative.
Whey protein is a popular choice amongst athletes as it also offers other health benefits in addition to muscle repair and recovery. Personally, I prefer using vegan protein powder supplements. If you are rushed for time but still want to build lean muscle, then protein powder may be the supplement for you.
Personally, my favorite protein powder supplement is Nuzest Clean Lean Protein:
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Concluding Thoughts – The Best Supplements for Athletes
It is important that you take the time to do your research when it comes to finding the right supplement for you, and don’t rush into taking supplements you have no knowledge about. Everyone’s body is different, so just because the guys in the gym swear by one supplement, it doesn’t mean that one is right for you.
But by finding a good supplement that agrees with your body is a great way to improve your overall health and boost your athletic performance.