What dietary enhancements do athletes like to use, and why?
Saul Morales (He/Him) // Contributor
Geraldine Yaris (She/Her) // Illustrator
In the world of sports and fitness, powders and supplements are now common tools for athletes across a wide range of sports where people are trying to get an edge over their competition. These supplements are used in a variety of sports, from powerlifting and marathons to even soccer or basketball. These products are typically crafted to provide benefits that will enhance performance, maintenance or recovery in athletes.
There are many options for powders or supplements athletes can take to increase their performance, but a few of the most popular ones are protein powders and pre-workout supplements.
Protein powders have become a staple for athletes like Kai Belbin, from the Capilano Blues women’s soccer team, who are looking to optimize muscle growth and repair. The most common version of a protein powder is whey protein, which is a supplement derived from milk. This option is very popular because of its rapid absorption, rich amino acid profile and convenience. As Belbin said, “I find it extremely difficult as a student-athlete who lives on my own to get the correct amount of protein intake. With protein powder, it’s quick and easy.”
Pre-workout supplements have been gaining more popularity over the last couple of years. The purpose of these supplements is to get an immediate surge of energy, enhance focus, or increase the endurance of the athlete. They are usually a blend of caffeine, amino acids and other stimulants. Belbin explains, “It benefits me physically, but mentally it just gives me an extra edge. If I’m going to be lifting heavy or doing sprints down the field, I just know I’m capable of pushing myself a little harder.”
Another example of a popular supplement in this category is creatine. Alexis King of the Capilano Blues women’s soccer team speaks on her experience with it: “I take 5 grams of creatine daily. For the duration I’ve taken it, I’ve noticed that it has immensely helped to increase my energy supply and overtime assisted in progressing my weightlifting in the gym and my overall muscle mass.” Creatine can make you feel fuller at times, as you should be drinking a surplus of water to assist with the supplement. The supplement pulls water into your cells to build muscle. King admits, “There have been times where I haven’t had enough water, and it has resulted in cramping of my muscles during strenuous activities. Creatine is not going to give you bigger muscles, but overall, more energy to push around weight for more reps.” All in all, she has found creatine to be a great addition to her supplement’s regimen.
If you’re looking for natural supplements that aren’t made in labs, there’s still plenty of options. Ginger and turmeric both have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; turmeric is also used to support joint health and has some cognitive benefits. Ashwagandha is used to help the body manage stress, improve cognitive function and boost energy levels. Green tea extract is rich in antioxidants called catechins, it supports metabolism, aids in weight loss, and has potential cardiovascular benefits.
It’s important to remember that natural supplements offer nutrients in a form the body recognizes, promoting optimal absorption. They also tend to have fewer side effects and risks than the lab counterparts, since they align with the body’s natural processes for better overall health. Ultimately, it’s up to you, your needs and what resonates with your body.