Sports supplements are a big business. They promise to build muscle and improve performance, strength, and speed. Some of these products have been used for years and have evidence supporting their use, while others are new and relatively unknown. In this article, I describe the various sports supplements that are reputed to increase muscle mass or improve the ratio of muscle to fat.
Phosphatidylserine is a type of compound known as a phospholipid. It is a component of cell membranes, the skin that surrounds cells which helps regulate the movement of nutrients into cells and the elimination of waste products.
Phosphatidylserine is marketed as a supplement for building muscles. It is believed to reduce the hormone cortisol after exercise. Cortisol levels increase in the body after heavy exercise. One of cortisols effects is to break down muscle tissue. By suppressing the release of cortisol, there is less muscle tissue is lost. At least one other study found that muscle soreness was reduced with phosphatidylserine. This may also be due to the cortisol suppression.
Phosphatidylserine is not an essential nutrient, meaning that your body makes all that it needs. A typical dosage for enhancing sports performance is up to 800 mg per day. Most phosphatidylserine today is derived from soy. Previously, it was manufactured from the brains of cows but this practice was discontinued due to potential health risks of viral contamination.
Side effects are rare, often consisting of mild digestive distress. Side effects in young children, pregnant or nursing women, and people with liver or kidney disease are not known, so these people should avoid taking phosphatidylserine unless advised by a qualified health professional. Theoretically, phosphatidylserine may enhance the blood-thinning drug heparin. People taking blood-thinners of any kind should consult their doctors.
Pyruvate (Dihydroxyacetone Pyruvate, DHAP)
Pyruvate supplements have become popular with bodybuilders because it is believed that pyruvate can reduce body fat and enhance energy. This is because pyruvate supplies the body with pyruvic acid, which is a natural compound involved in energy metabolism. Preliminary research suggests that pyruvate can help with weight loss and improve the capacity for endurance exercise.
Pyruvate is not an essential nutrient, which means that your body can make all that it needs without supplementation. It is found only in small amounts in food, with apples being the best source. A typical dosage of pyruvate is 30 g per day.
Pyruvate occasionally causes stomach upset and diarrhea. Safe therapeutic dosages in children, women who are pregnant or nursing, and people with liver or kidney disease have not been established.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Amino acids are naturally occurring molecules that the body uses to make protein. Branched-Chain Amino Acids refer to the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which all have a branched-chain molecular structure. Muscle tissue is particularly high in branched-chain amino acids.
People use branched chain amino acids to build muscle, improve sports performance, and minimize the effects of overtraining. This is because strength training and endurance activity uses up greater amounts of branched-chain amino acids than regular daily activities.
Branched chain amino acids are found in all foods containing protein. The best sources are red meat and dairy products. Whey protein powder, chicken, fish, and eggs are other good sources.
Branched chain amino acids are believed to be quite safe. It can, like all amino acids, interfere with medications for Parkinsons disease.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a mixture of different forms of linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid. CLA has become popular as a supplement to burn fat. More evidence to help us understand how CLA works in the body.
Although linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid that must be obtained through diet, there is no evidence that conjugated linoleic acid is needed.
A typical dosage of CLA is between 3 and 5 g per day. CLA is believed to be quite safe. However, maximum safe dosages in children, pregnant or nursing women, and people with liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Lipoic acid is also known as alpha-lipoic acid. It is found naturally in the body. One of the things lipoic acid does is to turn blood sugar into energy for the bodys needs. This may help to build muscle glycogen, which is the reason why athletes use lipoic acid. More studies are needed in this area.
It is also an antioxidant that neutralizes harmful free radicals. Unlike other antioxidants, it works in both fat and water, giving it a broad spectrum of action.