Due to the extra stress placed on your body as an athlete, you need to make sure you are adequately supplementing with a few key nutrients. To optimize your performance, focus on the following supplements for an active body:
Protein and Amino Acids
Athletes know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein and therefore, muscle. Exercise is a constant source of muscle breakdown and regeneration, so it makes sense that protein needs to be in adequate supply to get stronger. The best sources of protein are easily absorbed and consumed post-workout. Consider snacking on leftover salmon, chicken breast or low-fat Greek yogurt. Protein powders are also a quick way to get in a healthy serving of protein, as long as they aren’t your only source of nutrition. Consider trying alternates to whey protein, such as hemp, pea, rice or soy proteins
Electrolytes are minerals that are essential for muscle contraction, heart rate, fluid regulation and general nerve function. Calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium and sodium are the chief electrolyte minerals that are lost through sweating. In addition, calcium builds, strengthens and repairs bones. One way to get supplemental electrolytes is by adding an Emergen-C packet or other powdered electrolyte solution to your water bottle. Coconut water is another healthy, low-sugar option that supplies extra sodium and potassium while helping to rehydrate.
Antioxidants help to rid the body of free radicals that are produced when we exercise. Vitamins C and E and the two most well-known antioxidants and are easily supplemented through the diet with adequate fruit and vegetable intake.
Iron carries oxygen in the blood to every cell in our body. Low iron levels in athletes can lead to early muscle fatigue and prolonged recovery. Iron-rich foods are the best way to supplement, although some athletes — especially women — rely on highly absorbable iron supplements to maintain adequate iron levels. Heme iron (from animal products) is the easiest form of iron for our bodies to assimilate. Consider cooking in a cast-iron skillet for another source of accessible iron.
Thiamin, riboflavin and niacin (B vitamins) are all important cofactors for our bodies to make energy. Athletes tend to burn through their B vitamins at a higher rate than the average person, so keeping a B complex supplement around the house is a good idea.
Of course, supplements aren’t going to do any good without taking care of the whole person. Adequate nutrition, sleep, stress management and exercise all help to support the body’s foundation while working to build a stronger, faster and more athletic self.