Diet, Health, Nutrition

The Top Six Nutrients to Take Your Fitness Game to the Next Level (and Beyond)

You are what you eat and this is particularly relevant when referring to regular exercise training.

Whether you are looking to reduce your body mass index, to build lean muscle mass or simply to get in shape, the fact of the matter is that diet is just as important as your training routine. This is why it is quite ironic that many individuals fail to obtain the appropriate nutrients on a regular basis. In fact, any successful fitness celebrity will rightfully cite that supplementation can often be more important than simply being able to lift heavy weights or run a four-minute mile. Let’s take a look at six of the most crucial nutrients as well as the benefits that each will provide. 

Protein

Simply stated, your muscles cannot grow without the presence of protein. These substances are the literal “building blocks” for muscles, as they will be broken down into their constituent components (amino acids) after a high-intensity training session. These amino acids are then used to repair damaged muscle tissues; resulting in growth over time. Those who do not consume sufficient levels of protein will often experience a “plateau” in their training programmes and they are at a higher risk of sustaining injuries. 

Branched Chain Amino Acids

We mentioned amino acids in the previous paragraph. A specific type known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are particularly beneficial for several reasons. First and foremost, BCAAs have already be broken down. Thus, the body will not be forced to digest protein in order to absorb the amino acids themselves. BCAAs are particularly beneficial for those who might have digestive issues or who are looking to increase their consumption of certain substances (such as glutamine or lysine). Some additional advantages include:

  • BCAAs will place less strain upon the liver.
  • Research suggests that BCAAs can help to reduce muscular soreness.
  • BCAAs prevent muscle wasting during high-intensity training sessions.

So, we can now see why these amino acid formulations are a wise choice.

Creatine

Technically known as creatine monohydrate, this nutrient occurs in small quantities within meat and fish. The body likewise produces a certain amount of creatine. However, these levels are not significant when referring to fitness supplementation. Creatine is known as a vasodilator. It allows more blood (and therefore nutrients) to be transported to the muscles. In fact, creatine was one of the first mainstream supplements to demonstrate clear effects upon strength and lean mass growth. Another benefit of creatine is that it allows the body to retain more water. Some feel that this is beneficial, as it increases the hydrostatic pressure within joints such as the knees and elbows. This increased “padding” may reduce the chances of sustaining an injury. 

Fish Oils

Fish oils contain a type of cholesterol known as LDL. LDL is actually a “good” type of fat, as it can help to lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. Fish oil supplements also contain omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids; materials proven to lower HDL (“bad”) cholesterol within the bloodstream.

Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide is another chemical which helps the blood vessels expand; thus delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. However, so-called “nitric oxide” supplements are slightly mislabelled. They do not contain any nitric oxide; they rather contain substances which encourage the body to create nitric oxide (NO). These are generally L-arginine, L-citrulline and L-lysine. NO supplements are excellent in terms of lean mass development, fat reduction and higher levels of endurance. On a final note, some research has even shown that nitric oxide may help to lessen the severity of SARS-related respiratory infections. Nitric oxide can be taken in the form of a pill or a powder. Interestingly enough, it is also found in small amounts within watermelon rinds. 

Caffeine

Caffeine is primarily used as a short-term source of energy before and during trainng sessions. We are not necessarily referring to a strong cup of coffee in this sense. Many individuals choose to employ herbs. These can include guarana, kola nut, guayusa, and a type of tea known as yerba mate. 

Food Sources

However, what if you are looking to avoid supplements? There are several foods which can provide you with appreciable amounts of the substances mentioned above.

These include:

  • Lean meats, fish and eggs for protein and creatine (in small amounts)
  • Liver for branched chain amino acids
  • Fish oils (salmon, trout and mackerel)
  • Caffeine (coffee, green or red tea)

So, we can now see why supplementation can make all of the difference in the world if you have been looking to take your workouts to the next level. Feel free to refer back to this article as guidance in the future when needed.

Written by:

Marcus Sühr
Marcus Sühr

Next generation personal trainer and co-founder of Trion