Fall Athletes, it’s crunch time! The summer is winding down and your season is almost here. Many of you will be entering some sort of “hell week” scenario that is going to be taxing to the mind and body, as you close your summer programming. As typical as “2 a days” and other strenuous summer rituals are, in fact in some sports viewed as a right of passage, this process can be detrimental if not handled properly. Proper recovery is not only crucial to completing and having a successful camp but going too hard in the summer can lead to trouble mid-season. Several athletes have told me stories about “killing it” all summer, starting the season strong, but gassing out somewhere around week 5.
Some of you, hopefully, most of you went into camp with something to prove, whether it’s to yourself, your teammates, or your coaching staff. Some may compete for playing time, or even a spot on the roster. Either way, you need to be at your best. An edge over the competition in camp may be what gives you the chance to compete in the fall.
A good chunk of the questions I receive about sports nutrition is about supplements. The first thing I always stress is that you don’t NEED any of them, and all of these can be obtained from food. Depending on your diet, and your goals, certain supplements can be very helpful to get you back on the field day in and day out ready to perform at your best. In this article, I’m going to highlight 5 supplements athletes should consider for recovery and performance.
I know, Duh. There is no credible list of recovery supplements for athletes that don’t include protein. If you know anything about sports nutrition this one is almost a no-brainer. Keep in mind, there are some things to consider before adding supplemental protein to your diet. First, speak with your physician or Registered Dietitian to determine how much protein you require daily based on your regimen and your goals. Next, check your meal plan and make sure you aren’t already getting the proper amount of protein in your diet. If so, there is no need to add additional protein. If you determine that you could use a post-workout recovery shake, it’s very important to be aware of your protein to carb ratio. If you’re looking to lose weight during camp, consider a 1-1 ratio (protein/carbs). If you are looking to maintain muscle, or you’re a hard gainer who loses mass easily, you want to be anywhere from 1/3-1/4 depending on your needs and the intensity of your training.
In the realm of recovery and performance, I don’t know if there is a product that delivers in the way that creatine does. Not only does Creatine assist with muscle building and maintenance but it has also been proven to boost athletic performance for anaerobic athletes (Sprinters, Football Players, Volleyball Players, etc). Natural Creatine is found in many of the meats we consume, but your body can break it down and put it to use faster, and more efficiently in the powder/ liquid form. A key point to note about this supplement is that your body will never tap into its creatine reserve if you don’t reach a certain intensity threshold, so by all means if you’re supplementing with creatine Go hard!
Leucine is an essential branch chain amino acid. It’s considered essential because it must be provided within your diet and the body can not produce it on its own. Leucine has been particularly helpful to athletes looking to maintain muscle mass while cutting calories, also vegan athletes typically don’t consume a lot of protein but want to build and maintain muscle. (Crowe, 2005) You can take Leucine as a supplement, in pill or powder form, but it can also be found in certain foods like Salmon, almonds, peanuts, and eggs.
Working out twice a day for several hours whether it’s on the field, or in the weight room can be taxing on your immune system. This problem, in today’s Covid -19 era, is more of a concern than any other time in our lifetime. Studies have shown that Glutamine, a non-essential amino acid (produced within the body), can boost the production of white blood cells, which works to counter the deterioration of the immune system that is almost inevitable with intense training. (Reuters Health, 2007) Glutamine is a very affordable supplement that is usually tasteless in powder form. One scoop in your post-workout recovery shake can go a long way. Glutamine can also be found in cheese yogurt and Spinach.
L-Arginine is another supplement that is relatively affordable but extremely effective. Arginine is converted into Nitric Oxide, which increases blood flow, muscular power, and endurance. Studies have also shown that arginine may aid in the protein synthesis process (muscle building) and speed up tissue repair, making it a key factor in the recovery process. (Pahlavani, 2017) Arginine supplements can be found in both pill and powder form. White meats, almonds, and most dairy products contain a good amount of Arginine as well.
The season is almost here! The next few weeks are crucial for your team, and you as an individual. Don’t let your hard work go to waste! Hydrate, eat well, supplement when necessary, and most importantly…. Compete!
This article is for informational purposes only. Please consult with your physician before taking any supplements or before beginning any training or nutritional program.
Crowe, W. B. (2005). Effects of dietary leucine supplementation on exercise performance. National Library of Medicine.
Pahlavani. (2017). The effect of L-arginine supplementation on body composition and performance in male athletes: a double-blinded randomized clinical trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Reuters Health. (2007, August 2). Glutamine unlikely to boost athletic performance. Reuters Health.