Effective Supplementation For Improving Sports Performance;
I am going to start by saying that if something really works then it’s probably illegal. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is so CHECK THE LABEL!
If you are in a sports team, in the Army or competing in a sport where you are tested, then when you think about improving your performance, you need to make sure that any supplement you are taking is completely clear of banned substances. I'd therefore, avoid anything that is hiding behind a propriety blend or contains long words you can't pronounce (I will come back to that in a moment).
There can be a huge, huge risk when you’re competing for your livelihood, or even just doing something with work. You do not want to get popped for a banned substance that you weren’t aware was within your supplement so let's KEEP IT SIMPLE and focus on proven products that work!
So going back to what I mentioned a moment ago... proprietary blends!
Proprietary blends are compounds mixed together, a method used by supplement companies because they don’t have to specify the amount of each ingredient within the blend. Therefore, although they might be using products that work, there may not be enough of those products inside of that blend to actually make a difference. This is quite common in a lot of pre-workout supplements.
This is something the guys at ICON have been shouting about for years and one of the reasons I've always been a supporter of their products and the way in which they approach sports nutrition. They do not support the use of proprietary blends!
Now enough of the doom and gloom. Let’s get into what actually works!
My Top Pick!
Number one; Caffeine is one of the most effective supplements for sports performance that is out on the market.
Now you do need to be careful because dependency is a real risk. For it to work for sports performance you should think about decreasing your daily consumption, so that when you take it for performance purposes it’s going to have a greater effect.
Caffeine works by improving your energy, surprisingly enough, the amount you need is around two to six milligrams per kilo of body weight. Ideally, take it around 45 minutes before you exercise in order for it to be fully absorbed.
Be aware that caffeine does have a half life of four to six hours, which means four to six hours later, there’s still half of it within your system. So don’t take it too close to bedtime. If you are competing before bedtime, just be aware of how this might negatively affect your sleep.
Now what does caffeine exactly do for sports performance? Well, it increases your muscle fibre excitability, which makes it easier for your muscle fibres to be used. It reduces your reaction time, increases your alertness and improves your decision making especially when sleep deprived!
It also increases the amount of force and strength you’re able to use, improves your endurance performance, lowers your rate of exertion, increases your muscular endurance so that you’re able to work for longer and spares muscle carbohydrate energy.
Absolutely loads of benefits for performance and strength purposes. So get some caffeine in your basket! You can just take coffee if you like, or you can get caffeine in ICON Nutrition's IGNITE PRE WORKOUT
An absolute favourite!
Number Two; Creatine! This joins caffeine, as one of the most researched supplements ever. You want to be focusing on just Creatine Monohydrate.
At ICON these use Creapure® (Creatine Monohydrate) which is the gold standard in terms of quality, purity and safety. It’s that simple. Creatine has been tried and tested by athletes the world over and been shown to increase, strength, size, power output, recovery and even in some studies, muscular endurance.
Amounts that you need would be somewhere between 3 to 5 grams daily, depending on your body weight. If you’re smaller take less, if you’re larger take more.
There are many benefits to using creatine monohydrate: It helps with repeated high intensity efforts with short recovery. It also helps with improving your strength levels and improves the training load that you’re able to use. This in turn improves your training quality.
Improving your training quality improves your strength and improves your recovery. Creatine monohydrate also improves the signalling to the muscles, which means that you get a greater pump and a greater muscle gain.
It is not just for muscle strength and training sports, it also helps improve your muscular endurance, it means that your time to exhaustion is longer so you can go for longer.
It also increases the amount of carbohydrates that you are able to store as readily available energy. So it has loads of benefits for the endurance athletes as well. So again, tick, get it in your basket!
ICON's Creatine of choice:
An industry first, Creatine Performance combines both creatine (an ATP initiator) and d-ribose (an ATP sustainer) in efficacious dosages of 5g and 10g, respectively.
The powerful natural combination produces an ergogenic formula for improving athletic performance and endurance. The small amount of dextrose is added to allow for an easier transition of Creapure® and D-Ribose to pass through in to the bloodstream and in to your cells to fuel performance
Feel the tingle!
Number Three, Beta alanine is potentially very useful for sprinting sports and so for things like team sports or other sports where you’re being very, very anaerobic. High effort sprint’s with short rest periods, CrossFit, for example might benefit from this in certain situations.
It seems to delay your fatigue, by buffering hydrogen ions through increasing muscular stores of carnosine. You may want to try beta alanine but I’m not suggesting it’s for everyone however, it's an essential ingredient to look out for in any pre-workout formula.
Quantities to take would be 4 to 10 weeks of 80 milligrams per kilo of body weight, then followed by 40 milligrams per kilo of body weight as a maintenance dose thereafter.
Please note the first few times you use Beta Alanine you may feel a tingling sensation, this is normal and will reduce as your body gets used to using it.
ICON Nutrition offer a pre workout supplement containing Beta Alanine and Caffeine (see my top pic), this is a great product for that pre workout boost especially as it contains several other key ingredients including Leucine => IGNITE Pre Workout
Hydration, BCAA and Plant Based Diets
Depending on your diet BCAA and in particular Leucine can be a key addition to your training especially for anyone on a meat free diet.
Protein is vital for building muscle, right, we know that. But what many people are unaware of is that it is leucine, one of the amino acids, that stimulates muscle recovery and building in humans. We need enough leucine in a meal in order to promote the act of muscle protein synthesis. Plant-based protein sources are typically lower in leucine than animal sources, meaning you have to consume more of them to reach the same level of leucine required to stimulate muscle growth.
Alongside this keeping hydrated is key. Although more vitamins and minerals won't increase performance, a shortage of them will certainly hamper it and therefore supplementing with a product containing electrolytes can be very important especially if you train fasted in a morning.
If you are looking for a BCAA and Electrolytes based product you can check out ICON's Amino Performance featuring a complimentary 50:50 ratio of BCAAs and L-Glutamine plus a hydrating vitamin and electrolyte complex plus it's Caffeine free so great for days you don't want a caffeine hit or anyone not looking for a stimulant based pre-workout.
Carbs for Performance... Recovery is Key!
If you’re training for longer than an hour, then drinking a protein and carbohydrate workout drink during and after is a great way to fuel your training, and recover stronger.
ICON Nutrition do a great product for this; their Recovery powder is 2:1 Carbs to Protein, meaning one serving is 20g of protein to 40g of carbohydrate. This is perfect for long sessions and for your post workout recovery
Everything else out there really isn’t necessary, and the main thing is getting the basics right and focusing on the quality and quantity of your food intake.
Get the basics right, follow the premise above surrounding workout nutrition and you’ll be doing more than enough to meet your performance and composition goals.
"Jonny is the owner and head coach of Next Step Nutrition, an online coaching company dedicated to keeping diet and exercise simple. As such, they offer seminars, coaching and programs to help people lead healthier, happier lives. Jonny is the resident fitness expert for BBC Radio Leeds, host of Next Step Espresso, a daily fitness podcast, and in his spare time likes walking his dogs, drinking great coffee, craft beer, and performing in amateur musical theatre."
Why work with Next Step Nutrition?