Not in the shape you’d like? Obviously any change starts with diet and exercise, but scientific research supports the use of some supplements for assisting with your exercise regimen. The term often associated with these supplements is ergogenic aids. Simply put, an ergogenic aid is a substance, device, or practice that enhances an individual’s energy use, production, or recovery. Here are some safe ergogenic aids to consider.
Not fermented or oxidized like black tea, green tea (Camellia sinensis L.) contains much greater quantities of several polyphenolic components: epicatechin (EC), epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin (EGC), and the most studied, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Research on green tea catechins has shown promise with energy expenditure and fat oxidation.
While tea also contains caffeine, which is frequently used for weight control, green tea’s effect cannot be due to its caffeine content alone because the thermogenic (heat-producing) effect of green tea is greater than its equivalent amount of caffeine. A number of clinical studies have been conducted on green tea extracts showing benefits in terms of both weight control and energy expenditure, without side effects. Green tea may also have additional beneficial health effects, which appear mediated by tea catechins.
Daily supplementation of tyrosine with capsaicin, green tea extract (including catechins and caffeine), and calcium increased daily energy expenditure by 2 percent, without raising the heart rate or any observed adverse effects in obese individuals; additional studies are forthcoming.
A metabolite of the amino acid phenylalanine, tyrosine is eventually converted into L-DOPA, the precursor of biogenic catecholamines. If you’re asking yourself why the catecholamines you remember as neurotransmitters from high-school biology would improve your fitness and health, keep in mind that the nervous system is the most overlooked component of any exercise program. If the nerve doesn’t activate the muscle fiber, you won’t get far.
Tyrosine regenerates the neurohormone norepinephrine, which is released (and depleted) by caffeine. Physiological and psychological stress also depletes norepinephrine. While it may be controlled stress, stress is still necessary to an exercise program. Tyrosine has been shown to prevent stress-related declines in cognitive function in a number of studies. This effect may help you get through a tough workout at the end of a long day.
While this mineral is available in red meat, shellfish, grains, and legumes, and is often added to enriched foods, 68 percent of self-selected diets contain less than two-thirds of the RDA for zinc. Zinc competes with calcium, iron, and copper for uptake, and there is an inverse relationship between intake and absorption. As much as a 50 percent increase in zinc excretion occurs during strenuous exercise, which suggests that supplementation would be ergogenic.
Endogenous serum testosterone, which is responsible for lean muscle tissue and recovery in both men and women, decreases as we age. Marginal deficiency of zinc results in further lowering of serum testosterone. Fortunately, zinc supplementation has been shown to raise serum testosterone in men with mild zinc deficiency. In normal men, serum testosterone concentrations decrease with age, primarily as a result of decreased testicular secretion.
This mineral’s benefits are not just for active males, however. Mean dietary zinc intakes of active female athletes indicate that most have zinc intakes below the RDA of 8 mg/day. Suboptimal zinc status, as a result of intense exercise, may lead to fatigue and decreased endurance.
Zinc has important effects on carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism and plays a critical role in the division, growth, and maturation of cells, besides the functioning of many enzymes. Because they are less acidic, zinc acetate and zinc gluconate appear more bioavailable than zinc sulfate. Additionally many multivitamin/mineral supplements may contain calcium or calcium-based fillers or excipients, which can inhibit the absorption of both zinc and magnesium.
This mineral is involved in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production from fatty acid oxidation. ATP is the major energy currency of the cell. Magnesium is also useful in post-contractile muscular relaxation, which assists in recovering from physical stress, and bone remineralization.
Active individuals generally have diets that are low in magnesium as well as zinc, and they may lose some magnesium through sweat and urine. Some foods high in these minerals (for example, beef liver) aren’t appealing to most people. But the use of magnesium supplements has been reported to positively affect muscle metabolism and muscle function, which may enhance performance. These effects warrant further study to fully understand the performance-enhancing effects of magnesium.
One of the most important reasons for optimal magnesium status is sleep. Research shows that magnesium is extremely effective in promptly inducing sleep when taken at bedtime, as well as a number of other factors associated with a good night’s rest. Sleep is vital to recovery in any effort to live a healthier, more active lifestyle.
Until recently, most nutrition experts recommended a low-fat, carbohydrate-rich diet. But many are now touting the benefits of certain fatty acids, and fat’s proper role in the diet has a profound effect on overall health. One such fatty acid, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), was serendipitously discovered at the University of Wisconsin.
While CLA occurs naturally in small amounts in dairy and beef, getting a useful amount from foods would mean potentially negating any benefit by adding more cholesterol, saturated fats, and calories to your diet. Additionally, the amount of CLA in beef and dairy has diminished due to the prominence of grain-fed beef over natural, grass-fed livestock, yielding less CLA in most meat and dairy products today.
CLA favorably affects body composition, specifically reducing the proportion of body fat to lean body mass (LBM), an important factor in weight management. This fatty acid is more likely to increase LBM while decreasing fat when there is an anabolic stimulus, like resistance training or aerobic exercise. CLA has been used in several studies in humans, with no reports of significant adverse effects for most individuals.