Can’t tell your BCAA from your CLA? That’s why we’ve asked the experts to name the best sports supplements you need to know about, what they’re for and why you need them
The sports supplements market has bulked up more in recent years than a bodybuilder’s biceps. The healthier and more active we get the more sports nutrition products we consume to support our weight loss, exercise and fitness goals. That’s no wonder with Instagram stars such as Laura Hoggins (aka Biceps and Bronzer), Alexia Clark, and Sarah Bowmar flaunting the strong not skinny message and showing off physiques that are toned, athletic and fast becoming the new ideal.
According to Mintel almost three in ten Brits now use a sports nutrition product such as a protein powder, protein drink, energy or protein bar, tablet, gel or powder, and among those who exercise it’s two in five, almost 40 per cent.
Protein is still the number one choice with more women than ever turning to the lean muscle-building, weight management supplement. In 2015 just 7 per cent of women aged 16-24 had used a protein powder drink which has more than doubled in 2017 to 18 per cent.
But with so many sport supplements on the market, how do you know which ones to take? That’s why we’ve asked Healthista’s nutritional director, Rick Hay for his expert opinion. Once you’ve found your fitness goal – whether it’s to lose weight, maintain your weight, gain lean muscle or catapult your power and performance – then reach for the sports supplement right for you.
If you want weight loss:
L-carnitine is a type of amino acid and has been scientifically proven to benefit energy levels and our fat metabolism. ‘L-carnitine helps to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria of our cells’ explains Hay. ‘Here they can be oxidized and used for fuel.’
L-carnitine is especially effective for our energy production during intense exercise – perfect for powering through that workout.
Diet protein powder
The one supplement we’ve all heard of – protein powder – is not only a bodybuilder’s best friend but now an essential accessory to everyone’s gym life. It’s impossible to scroll through Instagram without seeing an endless flow of protein shake inspo – including Healthista’s.
Like L-carnitine, protein powder can also help regulate blood sugar spikes, which means less snacking and fewer cravings.
‘Protein powders are useful if you are looking to shed some unwanted pounds’ says Hay. Protein can help aid weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer. They also supply the body with a steady source of energy without spiking sugar and insulin levels.
Protein powder further assists with building lean muscle mass which helps you to tone up. ‘The more lean muscle we have the better our bodies are at fat burning,’ reveals Hay.
Like L-carnitine, protein powder can also help regulate blood sugar spikes, which means less snacking and fewer cravings. All the more chance you have at reaching your weight loss goals.
Try Healthista’s range of metabolism boosting whey and vegan protein powders which contain L-carnitine, inulin, glutamine and matcha green tea (see below).
Protein powders not only help you achieve weight loss but are also a useful tool for sustainable weight management. This is due to their ability to assist with satiety (feeling full) and blood sugar regulation. (Try, Pulsin or Revolution Foods protein powder)
When combined, satiety and blood sugar regulation keep you feeling full and lessen any cravings. ‘Protein powders are popular and perfect as a quick breakfast option or a snack’ says Hay.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid found mainly in beef and dairy. It has been shown to be an effective supplement for reducing fat mass, although more research is still necessary.
Similar to L-carnitine, it has been said to help with the use of body fat as a source of energy, whilst still keeping your metabolic rate up even when dieting. (Try Reflex CLA capsules, £22.49)
Matcha green tea
Matcha green tea contains a unique class of rich antioxidants called EGCG, which can be up to three times higher than that found in regular. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) has been shown to have weight loss and metabolism boosting benefits. Matcha green tea is therefore green tea but with an extra turbo charge for weight loss – perfect. (Try Pukka’s Mint Matcha Green Tea, £2.79)
Matcha green tea is a key ingredient found in Healthista’s Body Food to help with energy production and thermogenisis (fat-burning).
Glucomannan is a soluble ﬁber that is derived from the konjac root. Great for weight management, ‘This is a yam that expands in your stomach and increases feelings of fullness with glucomannan and helping you eat less over time,’ Hay explains. ‘The fibre in glucomannan expands in the stomach, helping you to eat less and control portion sizes’.
Glucomannan is additionally believed to act as a natural laxative. It causes an increase in stool bulk, improves colonic ecology and fecal elimination in healthy adults – perfect to help you detox and eliminate toxins, Hay asserts.
Inulin is a fibrous carbohydrate, classified as a starch. It’s can be found in a variety of foods such as chicory, sweet potatoes, wheat, bananas, onions and garlic. Studies on inulin show it can help reduce visceral fat (the fat around the middle) and the fat around your internal organs. (Try Inulin Sunroot Powder £6.99)
If you want energy and power:
You may have heard of creatine banded about by the bros’ at the gym and wondered what it’s for and what all the fuss is about. A favourite among bodybuilders, Hay explains that ‘creatine can be utilised by your body as a quick form of energy during high intensity workouts and short-burst activities’.
Creatine provides a natural boost when working out and contributes to improved muscle strength, growth and endurance. Creatine therefore allows your body to work harder on that gym floor.
ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), is the primary energy carrier in all living organisms on earth, aka the currency of life.
During high-intensity workouts, the body can only use the ATP that is already available. This only lasts for an instant of five to ten seconds. Creatine rapidly regenerates and recycles ATP to extend this time to about ten to 15 seconds. (Try Reflex Creatine capsules, £9.99)
Beetroot powder is one of this year’s star superfoods. Add to water and smoothies, sprinkle on salads, use in sauces and soups to provide added nutrients (you’ll also get an awesome colour).
Popular with athletes, Hay reveals that ‘beetroot powder can improve stamina and endurance to help with your performance levels’.
Along with making things look spectacularly bright, beetroot powder helps boost nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide is a key signaling molecule throughout the body that plays a critical role in regulating blood pressure and improving overall circulation. (Try Red Program’s Beetroot powder, £3.99)
If you want recovery:
BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acids and these help to fuel muscles for energy production and muscle recovery. BCAAs are found in foods high in protein, with the highest concentrations found in animal protein, meat and dairy foods.
BCAAs are also needed to prevent the wasting of lean muscle tissue
The three essential amino acids are leucine, isoleucine and valine. They make up 35 per cent of the amino acids contained within our muscles. These amino acids are essential and must be consumed in the diet, as the body cannot make them out of other amino acids.
BCAAs assist with lean muscle formation and the building of lean muscle whilst training. ‘Remember, the more lean muscle we have the more efficiently we can burn fat in the body,’ Hay explains. ‘During intense exercise, your muscles tear and then repair, growing stronger in the process’.
BCAAs will be able to reduce post workout aches and pains. (Try Reflex BCAA, £23.99) BCAAs are also needed to prevent the wasting of lean muscle tissue (known as catabolism).
L-glutamine is the most plentiful amino acid found in our blood and is also the best amino acid to aid recovery and reduce muscular aches and pains – bye bye DOMS. (Try Biocare, EnteroGuard, £42.65)
Along with recovery L-glutamine promotes muscle growth, can reduce muscle wastage and improves sports performance overall. So for gym goers, L-glutamine is an all round necessity, that’s why it’s another important ingredient found in both whey and vegan Healthista protein powders.
Hay explains that ‘magnesium is the most important mineral for muscle relaxation and can speed up recovery time’. Magnesium has a calming effect on nervous system and will help to reduce muscle cramps and muscle tightness.
Trouble sleeping? Magnesium will probably help with that too which is why we included it in Healthista’s Night Food, now with 20% off.
If you want joint health:
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a popular joint health supplement. MSM is a key natural pain reliever and repairer that lowers inflammation and improves flexibility.
MSM is necessary for collagen production and supports overall collagen health too. This as we know is important for preventing saggy, wrinkled or dry skin. Additionally, collagen is important and needed for your hair. Collagen provides our hair with strength, durability and overall health. (Try Lifeplan’s Joint Action MSM tablets, £13.99)
Algal Oil / Fish Oil
Healthy omegas found in fish and algal oil will help to reduce joint inflammation. Hay claims that ‘not only will these omegas help with inflammation but will assist with joint lubrication too’. So if you are experiencing achy or stiff joints, fish and algal oil are important for providing you with pain relief. (Try Pharma Nord’s Bio-fish oil, £7.95 or Biocare’s Vegan Omega 3 capsules, £13.95)
This spice of the moment is ananti inflammatory agent rich in antioxidants known as curcumoids to help with recovery.
Turmeric is also well known for its ability to assist with joint stiffness and reducing swelling. (Try Superfruit’s Organic Turmeric Powder, £6.10)
To find out more about this spice’s benefits, read more: Is turmeric the new kale? 12 best products containing the golden spice
Glucosamine and chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are structural components of cartilage, the tissue that cushions the joints. Both are produced naturally in the body but are also popular supplements for that added healthy bonus.
Glucosamine and chondroitin can prevent the degeneration of joint cartilage
This well researched combination helps with joint pain and joint cushioning. Glucosamine and chondroitin can prevent the degeneration of joint cartilage, which is why these supplements are used to provide arthritis relief. (Try Nutrabiotics Boswellia Joint Supplement that contains both nutrients, £19.99)
Rick Hay is an Anti-Ageing and Fitness Nutritionist with many years clinical experience in nutrition, naturopathy, botanical medicine and iridology. He specializes in obesity treatment and weight management. Find out more at rickhay.co.uk. Follow Rick@nutritiomalphys
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