The top ten se­cret supps

You’ve got your es­sen­tials, like whey and cre­a­tine, and now you want a bit more sup­port. It’s hard to know what works – but these supps are worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

Af­ter whey pro­tein and cre­a­tine, con­sider some of these sup­ple­ments to look and per­form bet­ter than ever


Oth­er­wise known as vi­ta­min C, this isn’t re­plen­ished by the body, so if you aren’t get­ting enough from your diet it makes sense to take a daily sup­ple­ment. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, it’s not proven to pre­vent ill­ness in healthy hu­mans – but stud­ies, in­clud­ing one pub­lished in the Jour­nal Of

Sports Medicine And Phys­i­cal Fit­ness, show it can halve the risk of colds among hard­train­ing ath­letes. The dose is 2,000mg a day.


An an­tiox­i­dant and im­mune sys­tem booster used to pro­tect the brain and body from dam­age by free rad­i­cals, this is used to treat can­cer, asthma and Parkin­son’s dis­ease. Un­for­tu­nately, us­ing it as an oral sup­ple­ment is a non-starter: it breaks down too quickly dur­ing oral in­ges­tion, so in­tra­mus­cu­lar in­jec­tion works best. If you de­cide to try it, 100mg-250mg a day is the rec­om­mended dose.


A fat-sol­u­ble amino acid de­riv­a­tive that aids cog­ni­tive func­tion. In a 2011 study, test sub­jects who took 400mg daily for two weeks im­proved cal­cu­la­tion speed and ac­cu­racy in tests of men­tal agility. There’s ev­i­dence to sug­gest that it re­duces post­work­out cor­ti­sol lev­els, which might have a calm­ing ef­fect and im­prove sleep. One study also found that high doses can ex­tend the time cy­clists could pedal at high in­ten­sity.


This pineap­ple ex­tract is a com­bi­na­tion of sev­eral com­pounds, in­clud­ing an en­zyme that helps with pro­tein di­ges­tion. If taken be­tween meals, there’s some ev­i­dence that brome­lain can ben­e­fit the im­mune sys­tem and pro­tect against can­cer. It also has anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties, which mean it can act as a de­con­ges­tant, and there’s even some ev­i­dence of fat loss ben­e­fits. Take 200-2,000mg a day with meals.


An aro­matic plant that’s nor­mally grown in the trop­ics, holy basil can – ac­cord­ing to some stud­ies – limit your cor­ti­sol re­sponse in stress­ful sit­u­a­tions (the hor­mone en­cour­ages the body to store fat). There’s lim­ited ev­i­dence that it also op­er­ates as a mood and testos­terone booster, but be care­ful – in tra­di­tional Ayurvedic medicine it’s used as an anti-fer­til­ity agent, which seems to be ac­cu­rate if you take it in high doses.


A syn­thetic de­riv­a­tive of vi­ta­min B1 that’s some­times used to treat chronic fa­tigue and erec­tile dys­func­tion. It’s a nootropic, which means it in­creases the brain’s sup­ply of neu­ro­chem­i­cals such as neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, so it could im­prove mo­ti­va­tion, mood and en­ergy lev­els dur­ing stress­ful pe­ri­ods of work, as well as hav­ing a sup­port­ive ef­fect on mem­ory. How­ever, there’s lit­tle ev­i­dence that it’s more ef­fec­tive than placebo.


A sim­ple sugar found nat­u­rally in liv­ing cells, D-ribose is one of the build­ing blocks of ATP, which the body uses to fuel ex­plo­sive ef­forts. Some ath­letes use it in­stead of beta-ala­nine, usu­ally in con­junc­tion with cre­a­tine, to im­prove power over short in­ter­vals. There’s also some ev­i­dence that it can sup­port en­ergy re­cov­ery and glyco­gen syn­the­sis af­ter ex­er­cise, though the best study was done on heart fail­ure pa­tients.


Type II col­la­gen is a part of bone car­ti­lage, and an “un­de­na­tured” form is used to treat rheuma­toid arthri­tis, where there’s good ev­i­dence from mul­ti­ple stud­ies that it can re­duce pain via doses of 40mg a day. In hydrolysed form – the kind you’ll see sold by sup­ple­ment com­pa­nies – it’s taken for skin health and some ben­e­fits to joints, in doses of up to 10g daily. But still, file un­der “more re­search needed”.


Taken by some ath­letes 90 min­utes be­fore race time for short events, this de­grades into sodium bi­car­bon­ate, which works as a buffer­ing agent against acid­ity, mak­ing it ef­fec­tive in events where fail­ure hap­pens be­cause of “the burn”. Shop-bought bi­car­bon­ate (bak­ing soda) might work just as well, but be care­ful – rapid in­ges­tion can cause gas­tric prob­lems be­cause of a swift re­ac­tion with stom­ach acid.


It might be a mirac­u­lous fat-metaboliser: there’s ev­i­dence, from a 2009 study pub­lished in the jour­nal Choles­terol, that a 500mg daily dose of soy lecithin can de­crease LDL choles­terol (the bad kind) up to 52% over two months. There’s also ev­i­dence that it helps to sup­port the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem, ner­vous sys­tem and liver func­tion, as well as lev­els of the vi­ta­min choline dur­ing ex­er­cise.

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