Everyone has been there, whether it’s first thing in the morning with a full day ahead, or after an equally long day: dreading that workout routine and the fatigue, aches and pains that come after it. At this point, it doesn’t matter about all the goal-setting to lose fat and gain muscle, the goal simply becomes starting and getting through that routine.
This is where targeted nutritional supplements come into play to support each aspect of training; preparation before training, performance during training, and recovery after training to ensure that every workout generates real, tangible results. Success in any physical effort depends on meeting the day-to-day and long-term demands the body requires to adapt to these activities.
Consistent, substantial demands on the muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems can generate considerable improvements in muscle mass, bone density, organ efficiency and fat metabolism—especially if adequate attention is paid to proper supplementation to increase the energy and stamina the body requires to manage the rigors of a training program.
On the other hand, physical training can yield pain, injury and fatigue if proper attention is not paid to nutrition targeted to support the physical mechanisms required by each type of exercise. If the nutritional support is suboptimal, the demands of training can dramatically increase the amount of stress and tissue breakdown that occurs, reducing the body’s ability to properly adapt. This can increase the risks for decreased muscle mass, increased fat deposition, decreased physical and emotional energy levels, plus an increased risk of injury.
The following targeted ingredients are among the options to help support increased physical demands before, during and after intense physical activity.
Preparation before training or competition
It’s a daunting thought, but training actually starts well before exercise time. Targeted ingredients taken prior to training will help support energy production, oxygen utilization and muscular metabolism to achieve the greatest benefit from training.
Glycine propionyl L-carnitine (GPC) supports healthy fat metabolism and circulatory health. GPC supports healthy nitric oxide (NO) production, which is essential for healthy circulatory flow to support the delivery of nutrients to the cell and the removal of metabolic toxins. It has powerful antioxidant properties that aid in reducing excessive oxidative stress, has a strong affinity for heart and muscle tissue, and can support healthy stamina and performance.1
L-phenylalanine promotes mental and physical focus and clarity. Because phenylalanine is essential for the synthesis of proteins, like all amino acids, it provides support for building a healthy, strong body. It also promotes healthy muscular contraction, and helps regenerate damaged muscle tissue, which is often caused by strenuous sports and activities that require endurance, as explained by Nootriment.com.
Ribose is a carbohydrate molecule that provides every cell in the body with energy. It facilitates the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that is the primary source of energy for all cellular processes. The heart, muscles and other vital tissues do not make ribose very quickly, and it is not stored in tissues and cells.2
Performance during training or competition
The ability to maintain a high level of physical, mental and metabolic function is essential for maximum performance, either in the short or long term. Targeted nutritional support allows one’s metabolism to push the limits and boundaries of activity to new heights of accomplishment.
Arginine increases blood flow and circulation so the heart can pump more blood more efficiently, which can promote cardiovascular performance. It also promotes the production of certain hormones, especially beneficial growth hormones and insulin that help usher glucose into cells to be used for growth and energy output. This is one of the reasons it’s believed to promote physical performance, stamina and strength.3
Alpha-ketoglutarate supports a series of chemical reactions involved in the body’s production of energy. Alpha-ketoglutarate is also involved in the formation of glutamine, an amino acid required for protein synthesis and for proper functioning of the immune system. It promotes the body’s production of protein, supports balanced blood sugar levels during exercise, and supports exercise endurance.4
Dimethylglycine (DMG) is an amino acid that helps the body cope with physical stress by promoting oxygen utilization to improve the rate of muscle recovery after strenuous exercise. Studies show that it speeds up the removal of lactic acid from the body, which allows for faster recovery, fewer aches and pains, and optimal training performance.5,6
Beta alanine increases muscular energy, in part by reducing muscular fatigue during training. Beta alanine is a nonessential amino acid that is necessary for creating carnosine in the body, which has been shown to play a significant role in balancing muscle pH. It can reduce muscular acidity, which aids in muscular performance, acting as an acid buffer, which delays the onset of fatigue and muscular failure. In recovery, stabilizing the acid base balance reduces the potential for damage to tissue and muscle that occurs during exertion. It has also shown to have a number of performance promoting functions that include antioxidant properties and regulation of calcium.7
Recovery after training or competition
Recovery after training is just as important as the exercise portion. Exercise can deplete the body, breaking down muscles and other tissues. For the body to recover, repair tissues and get stronger for the next challenge, it is necessary to refuel.
The crucial window for the recovery period is immediately after and for up to one hour after exercise, when optimal nutrition becomes the most fundamental factor in exercise recovery. High-quality proteins and other amino acid sources are the most fundamental factor in rebuilding muscle tissue and supplying the building blocks for cells, tissues, enzymes and hormones.
Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid (EAA) that helps activate protein synthesis. It also promotes brain health, muscular energy and recovery. Glutamine supports balanced muscle breakdown and repair, otherwise known as catabolism, thereby promoting muscular development. Glutamine also supports mental function by supplying a direct source of energy to the brain.8
Citrulline L-malate contributes to the defense against fatigue by removing excess ammonia from the body and regulating muscle pH. One of its biggest benefits is that it helps remove endotoxins such as lactic acid and ammonia, which can damage living cells and impair performance. These endotoxins are produced by all of the hallmarks of training: intense physical activity, protein metabolism and catabolic states. It also supports healthy blood flow by increasing the amount of NO, a powerful vasodilator.9
Leucine, isoleucine and valine are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that activate protein synthesis and help reduce the harmful effects of stress on the body. Seventy percent of BCAAs are used up at the highest level during training, which means they need to be replaced. Leucine specifically supports lean muscle-mass building and muscle repair. Isoleucine supports leucine in the biochemical processes that support muscle growth and the protection of lean mass. Valine reduces fatigue during training.10
Editor’s Note: For related content, visit the Sports nutrition: Protein – digital magazine.
Jack Grogan is chief science officer for Uckele Health & Nutrition. He is a recognized expert in hair mineral analysis, a valuable tool in determining the causes of nutritional imbalances or deficiencies. With considerable experience in the fields of biology, biochemistry and nutrition, he has been influential in the development of hundreds of proprietary nutritional formulas and programs.
1 Bloomer RJ et al. “Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine increases plasma nitrite in nitrate resistance trained men.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4:22.
2 Kersick C et al. “Effects of Ribose Supplementation Prior to and during Intense Exercise on anaerobic Capacity and Metabolic Markers.” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2005;15(6):653-664.
3 Campbell B et al. “The Ergogenic Potential of Arginine.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004;1(2):35-38.
4 Campbell B et al. “Pharmacokinetics, safety, and effects on exercise performance of L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate in trained adult men.” Nutrition. 2006;22(9):872-881.
5 Bishop PA, Smith JF, Young B. “Effects of N,N-dimethylglycine on physiological response and performance in trained runners.” J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1987;27(1):53-56.
6 Harpaz M, Otto RM, Smith TK. “The effect of N,N-dimethylglycine ingestion upon aerobic performance.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1985;17:287.
7 Blancquaert L, Everaert I, Derave W. “Beta-alanine supplementation, muscle carnosine and exercise performance.” Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015;18(1):63-70.
8 Tipton KD, Wolfe RR. “Protein and amino acids for athletes.” J Sport Sci. 2007;18:65-79.
9 Callis B et al. “Activity of Citrulline Malate on Acid-Base Balance and Blood Ammonia and Amino Acid Levels.” Arzneimittelforschung. 1991;41(6):660-663.
10 Yoshiharu Shimomura et al. “Exercise Promotes BCAA Catabolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle During Exercise.” Journal of Nutrition. 2004;134(6 Suppl):1583S-1587S).