Green juices, powdered protein, B12 injections — the list of supplements goes on and on, twisting and turning down endless paths to a “best self.” Generally speaking, vitamins and supplements are an accessible way to help your body replenish itself as you’re working it. But how do you know which ones might be right for you? We’ve done a little digging to help answer that question.
Before we jump in and share what we’ve found, we need to mention this key fact: When it comes to getting the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs, nothing is as effective as a healthy diet. Supplements, as the name indicates, are meant to be “in addition to” not “instead of” consuming foods that are rich in nutrients. Also, before you start taking any supplement, you should consult with your doctor or a healthcare specialist. So, keeping all that in mind, here are some common (and a few uncommon) supplement options to target specific concerns and areas that may require a little extra maintenance.
You may be better acquainted with turmeric as a spice but it can be used as a supplement as well. Turmeric contains a chemical called curcumin, which can help reduce inflammation in joints and muscles. So you know that soreness and pain you sometimes feel after you’ve worked out extra hard, tried out a new move, or otherwise strained your joints/muscles? That’s a strong indication they’re inflamed. Other signs include stiffness, redness, swelling, fatigue, and headaches. Taking turmeric can lower this inflammation and lessen these symptoms, which aids in recovery and allows you to continue building up strength in the joints.
Magnesium is a mineral that’s essential to life. Your body can’t function without it. This life force provides nutrients to your bones that keep them dense and strong, which prevents them from weakening and eventually breaking. It also relaxes your blood vessels enabling restoration and healthy circulation by decreasing your blood pressure and regulating your heartbeat. Magnesium also reduces the build up of calcium in your muscles, which keeps them loose and relaxed and prevents cramps. Suffice it to say it’s good to make sure you’re getting enough, and a magnesium supplement can help support that effort.
Creatine helps your muscles produce energy during high-intensity exercise and heavy lifting, so it’s great for warriors who love workouts like kickboxing and weight lifting. Compositionally speaking, creatine is a combination of three essential amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine. Most of the creatine in your body hangs out in your muscle cells in the form of phosphocreatine, which is a type of stored energy. This substance is beneficial because it encourages the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a high-energy molecule that helps your body perform better during exercise. The more ATP you have, the better you can perform. Creatine also offers metabolic benefits that help increase muscle mass, strength, and recovery.
Essential Amino Acids
Amino acids play a key role in muscle growth, strength, and recovery. There are three different types of amino acids: nonessential, conditional, and essential. The first two are produced by your body regardless of what you eat. But the last type — essential amino acids — have to be consumed. There are nine essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. If you eat a diet that’s high in protein, chances are equally high that you’re getting enough essential amino acids. However, if you’re concerned you’re not getting enough protein (vegetarians/vegans may seek protein alternatives!) an amino acid supplement could be beneficial.
Taurine is an amino acid that deserves a spotlight all its own. One of the conditional amino acids, it supports nerve growth, regulates calcium levels in the cells, aids in digestion, facilitates proper hydration, and can improve heart health. For athletes, taurine can also help boost performance by reducing fatigue, increasing stamina, decreasing muscle damage, and facilitating recovery. Taurine may also improve your body’s ability to burn fat versus glycogen for fuel, which can increase endurance and aid in weight loss.
B12 is an essential vitamin that your body needs but can’t produce on its own. It enables your body to form red blood cells, synthesize DNA, and keep your nerve cells working properly. Adequate levels of B12 also support the normal function of your brain, bones, heart, and more. It boosts energy, combats anemia, improves memory, and prevents heart disease. It’s good. You need it. You can’t live without it. And if you’re not getting enough — or your body isn’t absorbing it effectively — a B12 supplement can help. In some cases, physicians may even recommend intramuscular injections of B12 to boost levels of the vitamin in the body.
Zinc is a mineral most often associated with supporting the body’s immune system. It can help protect you from viruses and fight them off more quickly. But zinc’s benefits extend well beyond that. It’s essential to numerous processes in the body, including enzymatic reactions, DNA and protein synthesis, thyroid function, blood clotting, wound healing, cell growth and division, mental performance, and much more. When everything we just mentioned is working well, that means you can work out well. From a nutritional standpoint, sources of zinc include fish, poultry, and red meat. It’s also in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and dairy products.
Potassium is another one of those “you can’t live without it” minerals. It plays a critical role in keeping your muscles, nerves, heart, and digestive system functioning properly. Potassium also helps prevent muscle cramping and fatigue, so it’s particularly helpful to have it on board when you’re planning on increasing the time, distance, or intensity of your workout. As most people know, bananas are a great source of potassium. So are other fruits, like apricots, kiwi, pineapples, and oranges. Potatoes, carrots, and leafy greens also contain potassium, as do beans, nuts, whole grains, and lean meats. If you’re concerned you’re not getting or absorbing enough potassium through foods, a supplement might be a good way to go.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are found in your cartilage, which is the firm, whitish, elastic tissue that covers and protects the ends of your bones at the joints. It acts like a padding and prevents your bones from rubbing together. This connective tissue is also present in several other parts of the body (your ears, nose, and rib cage, for example). As a supplement, glucosamine and chondroitin may help maintain the health and structure of your cartilage, improve mobility, and reduce joint pain and soreness. If you put a lot of wear and tear on your joints through high-impact workouts or activities, you may want to consider taking glucosamine and chondroitin.
There you have it — an overview of some supplements that might help you feel strong, safe, and confident in your fitness journey. What we’ve shared here is by no means a comprehensive list of the diverse array of supplements out there on the market. There are … a lot. But it is a list of the ones we believe are most relevant to our warriors and the workouts you love to do. If you see a few supplements here that you think would be helpful, consider trying them out. Just remember to consult with your doctor or healthcare specialist before you do. And once you get the okay, be sure to follow the recommended dosage.