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Exercise supplements - are they worth it?

Pre-workout… creatine... BCAAs…. protein powder… The list of exercise supplements available on the market today is overwhelming - even for us! There are millions of dollars to be made by selling supplements that promise to make you gain muscle, run faster, jump higher, lift heavier, recover quicker, and everything in between. But just because a label or a salesperson says a supplement will benefit you, does that mean it actually will? Let’s examine the current research on some common exercise supplements used today.

There are a variety of different pre-workout products on the market - all claim to increase energy levels, increase focus, improve muscle growth and recovery, and/or increase endurance, or any combination of these. Pre-workout products often contain caffeine, a variety of amino acids, and/or a variety of vitamins/minerals

If you consume a varied, balanced diet, you likely do not need any extra vitamins or minerals from a pre-workout supplement.

Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world. It stimulates the central nervous system to increase alertness, improve muscle contraction, and enhance some motor skills. Caffeine may make exercise feel easier, delay feelings of fatigue, and can improve short-term, high intensity exercise performance. It is found naturally in coffee, chocolate, and some teas. Caffeine can be taken before or during exercise from food or supplement. Caffeine affects people differently, so we recommend trialing it in your training before competition to see if it’s helpful for you or if you may experience unpleasant side effects. It is important to note that supplements, such as pre-workouts or capsules, are quick to be digested and absorbed so you may feel the effects quicker and possibly more severely. Book an appointment with Alex or Stephanie to discuss the right dose of caffeine for your training and performance!

Most, but not all, amino acids often included in pre-workout supplements do not have sufficient scientific evidence to support their proclaimed benefits.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) encompass 3 amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are essential, which means that the human body is unable to make them and they need to be consumed from foods such as: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These amino acids are unique in that they can be metabolized directly by the muscle, without having to be metabolized by the liver first. It has been hypothesized that BCAAs can help performance by promoting muscle growth, preventing muscle breakdown, reducing exercise-induced damage, and preventing fatigue. As a result, BCAAs are commonly encouraged in supplement stores, at gyms, or by individuals who have found them to be beneficial. However, there is currently no conclusive research to support these proclaimed benefits. There are also no documented adverse side effects with BCAA supplementation.