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
After whey protein and creatine, consider some of these supplements to look and perform better than ever
01 ASCORBIC ACID
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.
05 HOLY BASIL
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.
03 D RIBOSE
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.
06 HYDROLYSED COLLAGEN
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”.
09 SODIUM CITRATE
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.
10 SOY LECITHIN
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.