Updated: Oct 12, 2019
We believe supplements can be an important part of maintaining and improving patient health, and some of our favorites for exercise performance and recovery are listed below.
Remember, our online inventory of pharmacist-approved supplements is marked BELOW MSRP and ships free on orders of $40 or more, Already a member of our FullScript supplement program? Log in here to begin your order.
L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body, serving as a key building block of protein. L-glutamine can support recovery by increasing muscle glycogen synthesis following exhaustive exercise. It’s also been shown to limit strength loss and muscle soreness in men following exercise-induced muscle damage.
Supplementing with l-glutamine can potentially decrease stress on the digestive system that occurs during exercise. Specifically, research shows that oral l-glutamine supplementation with exercise in heat over 86 °F (30 °C) can prevent markers of intestinal permeability and suppress NF-κB activation, a regulator of inflammatory signaling. This suggests that l-glutamine may play a role in limiting the inflammatory response that follows exercise.
Creatine is an amino acid found in skeletal muscle as free creatine and phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine is used to produce energy via the body’s adenosine triphosphate-creatine phosphate (ATP-CP) energy system. The ATP-CP system produces rapid energy used in activities that requires speed and power such as jumping, sprinting or weight lifting. Creatine is present in high levels in the central nervous system and may help to protect against trauma, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI). This shows potential for creatine in treatment following concussions.
As a supplement, creatine may improve recovery following intense exercise and enhance recovery from injury. Creatine has been shown to increase bench press lifting volume and average power compared to a placebo.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 5g of creatine monohydrate four times daily for 5-7 days to increase stores, followed by a maintenance dose of 3-5g/day or slightly more for larger athletes.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs include the essential amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine. These amino acids are used as substrates for protein synthesis and energy production. A review found that BCAA supplementation before and after exercising helped to reduce muscle breakdown and promote muscle building.
Whey protein powder is an efficiently absorbed source of protein derived from dairy. When combined with resistance exercise, whey protein supplementation activates mTOR, a signaling protein linked to muscle synthesis. Several studies in men have found that whey protein improves muscle hypertrophy, or growth in the size of muscle cells when combined with resistance exercise.
The body has an increased sensitivity to dietary protein in the 24-hour period following exercise. Current recommendations say that 20-25g of whey protein is ideal following resistance exercise.
When combined with resistance training, dietary protein intake can improve body composition and increase muscle mass.
Collagen is an abundant structural component of your skin, bones, and connective tissues. As a supplement, collagen powder is commonly derived from fish, chicken, or bovine sources. A 24-week clinical trial found collagen hydrolysate reduced joint pain in athletes. It’s also been demonstrated to benefit body composition and muscle strength with resistance training in older men suffering from sarcopenia, a degenerative condition that causes loss of muscle mass. These findings suggest that collagen supplementation may help protect from deterioration of joint and muscle tissue.
Electrolytes are a group of minerals, including sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium. These minerals are responsible for helping to maintain blood pressure, fluid balance, and the healthy firing of muscles. Electrolyte loss occurs through sweat and is heightened with exercise. Consuming electrolytes through drinks or food is important for rehydrating the body following exercise. One study in men following intermittent cycling exercise found that sodium content in the recovery drink was important to rehydration. With low sodium in the drink, fluid intake resulted in increased urinary output rather than optimal rehydration.
Electrolyte supplements, often in combination with carbohydrates, can be found as powders, capsules, or drinks. There is no specific recommended dosing for electrolytes, but consuming a product that combines the various types listed above is typically ideal.
In addition to being an electrolyte mineral, magnesium is used in over 300 reactions in your body. Evidence shows that magnesium requirements go up as physical activity is increased. This mineral is used in energy metabolism and regulating muscle contraction and blood pressure.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that can be synthesized in the liver or obtained from the diet. As a supplement, beta-alanine has been shown to increase exercise capacity and performance. Specifically, perceived exertion and biochemical markers related to fatigue were improved. Beta-alanine may also be more effective when combined with the electrolyte sodium bicarbonate.
Curcumin is a polyphenol derived from turmeric, best known for its effects on pain and inflammation. Research has examined these benefits specifically post-exercise. During recovery after exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), 400 mg of Longvida®, a bioactive form of curcumin, helped to reduce biological inflammation when administered two days before to four days following EIMD. Similarly, curcumin was also found to reduce pain from various exercises in men at 24 and 48 hours post-exercise.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), omega-3 fatty acids found primarily in fish oil, have potent anti-inflammatory effects. Omega-3 supplementation may be beneficial for exercise recovery by reducing inflammation, supporting muscle synthesis, and supporting immune system function. Omega-3 supplementation has been shown to prevent the loss of skeletal muscle mass and help with muscle protein synthesis.
Supplements such as protein powder, bars, and energy gels can be more convenient around exercise than whole foods.
The bottom line
Dietary supplements have a myriad of benefits when it comes to exercise performance and recovery, and your needs depend on your goals, age, and health conditions, as well as the type, duration, and intensity of physical activity.
If you're not sure what's best for you, come into the store or give us a call. One of our pharmacists trained in integrative approaches will determine the best fit for your wellness and exercise plan.