In the ever-evolving world of Strength & Conditioning training, proper supplementation equals results – which begs the question: With long and short term fitness goals that can run the gamut, which supplements are athletes actually interested in?
As a CrossFit coach, I’ve seen just about everything. Whether I’m working with an MMA fighter conditioning for a fight, a weightlifter prepping for a meet, or a tennis player focusing on her next tournament – there’s almost always a conversation around which supplements are worth considering.
As an athlete and a trainer, I’ve built a list of go-to supplements that I like to recommend to athletes looking to maximize the effects of their preferred strength and conditioning methods.
What Athletes Want: 3 Must-Consider Strength & Conditioning Supplements
Three popular supplements any strength and conditioning-minded athletes can consider adding to their nutritional arsenal are BCAA’s, Fish Oil, and Magnesium.
Even though each of these supplements can support training and recovery efforts on their own, they can also be taken in tandem with other supplements. Let’s take a closer look at why and how these 3 supplements remain in high demand across training & fitness fields.
BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
Consisting of three specific amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) these amino acids are responsible for helping the body with protein synthesis and absorption.
BCAA’s are some of the most widely used supplements on the market today – and for good reason! Along with the dozens of readily available studies supporting the anecdotal claims that have been made about their muscle-centric benefits, these aminos can be paired with a number of different sports supplements (proteins powders being one of the most popular choices).
When it comes to benefits, studies have suggested that BCAAs may:
- Support post-workout muscle recovery and immune system1
- Improve athletic stamina (leaving room for longer, more intense workouts)2
- Reduce the breakdown and loss of muscle tissue post-workout3-7
- Help build lean muscle mass8
From the hard trainers to the big gainers, these gym bag staples are recognized for their potential benefits, their travel-ready nature (hurray for drink mix powders!) and for the fact that they can be pretty darn tasty!
Especially for brand owners looking to break into the BCAA market, pairing with a manufacturer who can help you craft great-tasting flavors for your BCAA powders will make all the difference.
Believe it or not, the “typical” modern Western diet has a tendency to be deficient in important fatty acids – including most omega-3s.9
Even for healthy adults who make the conscious decision to up their daily intake of omega-3-rich foods (like salmon, flaxseed, chia seed, and walnuts), looking to omega-3 supplements (like fish and krill oils) may still be an option worth considering.
Both in and out of the gym, there is a ton of anecdotal evidence supporting the benefits of omega-3-rich. On the science side of things, there’s an equally large number of studies suggesting that omega-3 supplements (like fish oils) may:
- Reduce inflammation and muscle soreness caused by exercise10
- Promote and maintain healthy brain function11
- Positively influence moods12
- Help protect joints during intense training and heavy lifting13
No matter which source you’re looking to use in your omega-3 supplements (be it plant-based, animal-based, or something in between), working to keep your ingredient list as short, minimally-processed, and filler-free as possible is one of the simplest ways to help your product stand apart from the rest.
Not unlike the omega-3 situation, a number of studies have suggested that a large number of American adults aren’t meeting the daily recommended amount of magnesium.14,15 Along with looking for magnesium-rich foods, magnesium supplements can also be a great option.
Typically found in pill or powdered form, magnesium is recognized most often for the key role it plays in the human nervous system.16 Along with helping our brains do what they do best, there’s a good amount of scientific research supporting the idea that magnesium has the makings of a great workout companion.
Among other things, researchers have found that Magnesium may:
- Support healthy muscle recovery17
- Calm the nervous system – helping to relieve stress18
- Help fight insomnia for a restful night’s sleep (which is key when it comes to the body’s natural methods for recuperation and recovery)19
Along with the potential benefits, magnesium tends to be one of the more “cost effective” supplements (at least from the consumer side of things), making it an increasingly popular choice among athletes looking to build out their supplement regimens.
And now, a friendly word of advice…
For athletes and brand owners with less experience, making the assumption that delivery method (capsule, tablet, powder, beverage, etc.), ingredient form and sourcing, and ingredient processing don’t really matter can be all too easy. Regardless of which side of the equation you’re standing on – don’t make this mistake.
In the world of sports and nutritional supplements, details like the ones I’ve just mentioned matter. Big time.
In the cases of BCAAs, Omega-3s, and magnesium there are dozens of questions worth asking – including these:
- For BCAAs: Are BCAA powders, BCAA capsules, and liquid BCAAs equally effective?
- For Omega-3s: What’re the differences between omega-3s derived from fish oils and krill oils? Are they significant?
- For Magnesium: I’m I looking to use magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate? Is one better than the other? Why?
And the list goes on! For athletes and brand owners there are certain questions that are absolutely worth asking. While there may be dozens of different options when it comes to finding the answers to these questions, brand owners have the added advantage of being able to determine the right answers with the help of their contract manufacturer.
What You, Mr. Supplement Brand Owner, Should Walk Away With
Whether you’re looking for the right combination of supplements for your own personal use or you’re looking to create high-quality supplements for people serious about their training – all three of these ingredients can serve as a starting point.
Likewise, once you have settled on working with a particular type of supplement or ingredient, the value of asking every possible question possible cannot be understated.
More About the Author
Aja Campbell is 29 years old and lives in Queens, NY. An athlete, Crossfit coach, and entrepreneur, Aja is the founder and owner of ATTAGIRL NY. “I find joy in helping people realize their athletic potential and meeting their fitness goals through smart coaching, diet, and nutrition. There is no magic pill, only hard work and dedication.”
- Louard RJ, Barrett EJ, Gelfand RA.Overnight branched-chain amino acid infusion causes sustained suppression of muscle proteolysis. Metabolism 1995;44(4):424-9.
- MacLean DA, Graham TE, Saltin B. Branched-chain amino acids augment ammonia metabolism while attenuating protein breakdown during exercise. Am J Physiol 1994;267:E1010-22.
- Greer BK, Woodard JL, White JP, Arguello EM, Haymes EM. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and indicators of muscle damage after endurance exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2007;17(6):595-607.
- Coombes JS, McNaughton LR. Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2000;40(3):240-6.
- Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Nakai N, Nagasaki M, Harris RA. Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. J Nutr2004 Jun;134(6 Suppl):1583S-1587S.