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The Role of Supplements in Sports Nutrition

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Whether you’re a serious athlete looking to gain a competitive edge or a non-athlete who would like to get more out of your fitness regimen, you may have wondered if sports nutrition supplements are worth taking. Sports nutrition supplements include powders, pills, drinks and snack bars intended to boost athletic performance in some way, usually through building muscle, increasing energy, improving endurance or assisting in weight loss.

Protein Supplements

Usually promoted as a way to build muscle, protein supplements are made from either milk- or plant-based protein. These supplements are typically sold as powders that can be mixed with water, milk, a milk substitute or other liquids. A significant benefit of protein supplements is their convenience. For example, it’s easier and quicker to drink a protein shake after a workout than to prepare and eat a healthy high-protein meal.


Creatine is an organic substance involved in the production of energy for muscle contractions. Although creatine can be obtained from food sources such as meat or fish, some individuals may have difficulty getting the right amount of creatine from foods alone to optimize their athletic performance.

A popular sports supplement, man-made creatine is available as a powder or pill and in energy bars and drink mixes. Studies indicate that creatine supplements can increase lean muscle mass, strength and exercise performance. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), creatine is safe to use at recommended doses and does not cause long-term detrimental effects.


Another substance that has strong and consistent research showing positive effects on exercise performance is caffeine. Consuming caffeine prior to physical activity may help delay the depletion of carbohydrates used during exercise, improving endurance. Other potential benefits of caffeine include improved strength, reduced fatigue and better mood during exercise.

Other Sports Nutrition Supplements

The many sports nutrition supplements available today also include multivitamins, branched-chain amino acids (leucine), omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, glutamine, beta-alanine, beetroot and green tea extract, each of which is purported to offer different performance benefits. However, research supporting the effectiveness of most of these supplements is still limited at this time.


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