Whether you’re a competitive athlete or a weekend warrior, getting results from your workouts comes down to way more than just the work you put in at the gym. In fact, combining a nutritious diet with a few top supplements for athletes can help give you a serious edge over your competitors while upgrading your performance by increasing strength, metabolism and muscle mass so you can make the most of each gym session.
Ready to learn more? Here are some of the top fitness supplements to consider adding to your routine, plus what to look for on your next shopping trip to make sure you’re getting the real deal.
Top 8 Best Supplements for Athletes
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is found throughout the bones, muscles, skin, ligaments and tendons. Unfortunately, as we get older, the amount of collagen that our body produces starts to decline, resulting in symptoms like joint pain, skin problems and slower healing and recovery. Supplementing with collagen is a great way to combat the natural signs of aging and bump up collagen levels in your body to get quicker results.
Studies show that collagen can relieve joint pain and increase bone mineral density, which may help protect against exercise-related damage to keep your body strong. It can also improve your body composition by increasing lean body mass, building muscle strength and reducing overall fat mass.
What’s more, research also shows that collagen can even help enhance heart health by decreasing arterial stiffness and increasing levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol in the body, allowing your heart to pump blood through the body more efficiently to deliver key nutrients to your cells.
2. Whey Protein
Without question, whey protein ranks as one of the most popular and most effective dietary supplements for athletes, and taking it as part of a post-workout meal or snack can help stimulate muscle synthesis to bring your workout routine to the next level. Plus, it’s a good alternative to other supplements like protein tablets because it’s easy to add to shakes and smoothies and can provide a more concentrated dose of protein in every serving without having to swallow several capsules or pills at a time.
Impressively enough, research has found that whey protein can help maximize muscle growth and improve body composition by increasing lean body mass. According to one large review of 14 studies in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, combining resistance training with whey protein led to reductions in body weight and body fat, plus an increase in lean body mass.
Regardless of what type of athlete you are, multivitamins are one of the most important sports supplements that you can add to your routine. Multivitamins can help round out a balanced diet, filling in the gaps to supply any essential nutrients you may be missing.
Certain nutrients are especially important for athletes, and a deficiency can take a major toll on your health. B-vitamins, for instance, are responsible for supplying energy to your cells while vitamin C provides antioxidants that can help fight free radicals and promote muscle recovery. Other key vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc are also involved in energy metabolism, muscle function, blood cell formation and oxygen uptake, all of which are crucial to optimizing athletic performance.
4. Vitamin D
With some sources estimating that a whopping 41.6 percent of the U.S. population is deficient in this essential micronutrient, vitamin D is one of the most important vitamin supplements for athletes on the market. Vitamin D is found in few food sources and is synthesized by the skin as a result of sun exposure, but for older adults and those who are overweight, have darker skin or get limited sun exposure, the risk of deficiency gets even higher.
Not only does vitamin D work with other micronutrients to promote bone health and prevent bone loss, but it’s also involved in several other aspects of health as well. In fact, one review of seven studies even found that vitamin D supplementation was effective at increasing both upper and lower limb strength in healthy individuals over a period of four weeks to six months.
5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of heart-healthy fat that have been linked to a long list of potential health benefits. Besides improving heart health by keeping cholesterol levels in check, omega-3 fatty acids can also enhance immunity and soothe inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids may be especially beneficial for promoting healing, with some research suggesting that its anti-inflammatory effects may help prevent sports injuries in elite athletes and casual gym-goers alike.
Fatty fish varieties like salmon and tuna fish are great natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but fish oil is also available in supplement form for a quick and convenient way to get your fatty acid fix each day. There are also several omega-3 fatty acid supplements for vegan athletes as well, such as algal oil, which is derived from omega-3-rich algae.
Glutamine is an incredibly important amino acid that is frequently considered one of the best supplements for endurance athletes. It’s been shown to promote healthy healing and is also used to provide energy for the cells in the immune system.
Plus, a study conducted by the Division of Kinesiology at Dalhousie University found that supplementing with glutamine reduced muscle soreness and helped speed up recovery post-exercise. Coupled with its healing, immune-boosting properties, glutamine is a must-have if you find that you suffer from frequent aches and pains following your high-intensity workouts.
7. Bone Broth
Made by slow-simmering animal bones and connective tissue for a period of several days, bone broth is loaded with easy-to-absorb trace minerals and ample amounts of collagen and gelatin. As one of the best joint supplements for athletes, the collagen found in protein powder made from bone broth has been shown to improve activity-related joint pain in athletes while also protecting and preserving overall joint health.
Each serving of bone broth also delivers a hefty chunk of protein, making it a great alternative to other protein powders and securing it a slot as one of the best dietary supplements you can incorporate in your routine. In fact, high-protein diets have been shown to help boost metabolism, improve body composition and even encourage muscle growth.
Creatine, also referred to as creatine monohydrate, is one of the best bodybuilding supplements for those looking to build strength and increase muscle mass fast. According to a review published by Baylor University, over 500 studies have been conducted on the effects of creatine supplementation, with about 70 percent demonstrating that creatine has significant ergogenic properties, meaning it can help boost performance, stamina and recovery.
Although there are plenty of comparisons out there between creatine vs whey, both can be used in conjunction to really kick up your workout. While whey protein helps stimulate muscle synthesis and growth, creatine helps boost strength and power to help you get better results, making it one of the top supplements for Crossfit athletes and bodybuilders alike.