Sports Performance & Supplements (Part 1), What should you really take?

Sports Performance

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Last week in our Sports Nutrition series, we talked about ATP (cellular energy) and how to create it. Supporting the mitochondria is key. This week (and next week), we will cover supplements that support mitochondrial health and promote sports performance.

** Please note: If you want the longer more detailed version of this article, then please click here **

In Part 1 today, we focus on the supplements that specifically target mitochondrial support. For a review of what are mitochondria, see last week’s article here. The supplements that support mitochondria are:

  • Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)
  • Carnitine
  • CoQ10
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
  • Antioxidants & Vitamin B complex
  • Creatine

As a side note, we do need to mention that supplements are not a substitute for a well-balanced diet. Interactions between supplements and any medications you are on can occur, so it is best to check with your Functional Medicine (FM) practitioner. It is important to buy high quality supplements as there are many poor-quality products in the retail market. Your FM practitioner can provide guidance about which are the best quality supplements.

What do the professional athletes take?

  • A small random sample of 66 professional athletes from a variety of sports found that 85% of athletes surveyed took amino acids, 85% took supplemental protein, 82% magnesium and 73% creatine (Petkova E, 2018). Other commonly taken supplements were tribulus (to boost testosterone), a multivitamin, isotonic beverages (for electrolytes), caffeine and a blended product for joints support (Petkova E, 2018).
  • Another larger survey study found that elite athletes took a multivitamin, creatine, caffeine and amino acids (National Institutes of Health, 2019).
  • A survey of 21,000 U.S. college athletes reported taking protein (41.7%), energy drinks and shots, i.e. caffeine, (28.6%), creatine (14.0%), amino acids (12.1%), multivitamins with caffeine (5.7%), beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl butyrate (HMB; 0.2%), DHEA (0.1%), and testosterone boosters (1.6%) (National Institutes of Health, 2019).

Supplements for Mitochondrial Health & Starting Doses

Research shows that supplements, such as alpha-lipoic acid, L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10 and others in combination can naturally restore mitochondrial function (Nicolson, 2014).

  • Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA): 600mg once daily
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine (Carnitine): 2,000mg once daily
  • CoQ10 / Ubiquinol: 200mg once daily
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC): 1,200mg once daily
  • Multi vitamin/ mineral
  • Creatine: Option one is the simple option: take 5g daily (about 1 tsp of powder for most products) of creatine monohydrate. Option two is a little more complex: to start loading, 0.3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day for 5–7 days, then reduce to 0.03 g/kg/day for three weeks or indefinitely (Yáñez-Silva A, 2017). A 120 lb. woman should start with about 16 gr and reduce to 1.6 gr after the initial loading phase. For a 180 lb. person, this is 25 g/day during the loading phase and 2.5 g/day afterward. Many users take 5 g/day to reap possible increased benefits. Higher doses (up to 10 g/day) may be beneficial for people with a high amount of muscle mass and high activity levels.

Do stimulants like caffeine increase effectiveness of mitochondrial supplementation?

Some evidence suggests that caffeine may increase the effectiveness of mitochondrial supplements when taken at the same time. Caffeine has been shown to stimulate mitochondrial production of ATP or energy (Wesselink E, 2019). Caffeine increases the amount and metabolism of mitochondria in muscles (Vaughan RA, 2012). For those who tolerate caffeine and drink it anyway, it may be helpful to time it together with mitochondrial supplements (Wesselink E, 2019). We will discuss caffeine in more detail in our next article on performance-enhancing supplements.

Conclusion: What should you really take?

We recommend a combination mitochondrial support supplement, containing, at a minimum, antioxidants, carnitine, CoQ10 and ALA. This helps with general energy levels and ATP creation, longevity and energy for sports. If you are serious about sports performance, even recreationally, then try experimenting with creatine to see if it works for you. Also stay tuned with us as next week, we will cover supplements which specifically target sports performance, recovery and muscle synthesis.

** Please stay tuned for next week’s article on Sports Nutrition **

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