Training Boosters – What Supplements Really Work?

For every fitness goal there’s a supplement that’s claimed to help you – but do any really work?

If there really was a magic fat-burning energy-giving, muscle-recovery pill, we’d know about it. Your best bet for reaching your goals is of course, hard graft, rest and right nutrition. However, if you’re already doing this and need a bit of a boost, there are a few supplements that may help get things moving in the right direction. Here’s the lowdown on which supplements do what.

Want to lose weight?

Try: CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid). This unsaturated fatty acid, found in full-fat milk, meat and cheese inhibits fat storage and helps maintain glucose levels by activating enzymes that deliver fat and glucose to fuel muscle cells.

The Science: In a study published in the book Alternative Cures (Rodale, £11.99), researchers found people who took 3,000mg of CLA daily lost 20% of their body fat in three months without dieting. CLA blocks fat uptake and increases the speed of fat burning. It also improves your muscle-to-fat ratio, meaning you can reduce your body fat while increasing your muscle tissue, which is essential for keeping your metabolism high.

Recommended Daily Dose: Aim for 750mg a day. You’ll get around 25% of that from a steak, for example.

Want to increase your endurance?

Try: Beetroot juice. Not only is beetroot packed with antioxidants to mop up the nasty free radicals that cause cell damage, but it is also credited with reducing lactic acid, meaning you can longer at the gym, or run faster for longer without getting tired.

The Science:

Research from the University of Exeter found juiced beets boosted exercise endurance by 16%. This is because the earthy beverage is packed with nitrate, which makes your oxygen and energy use more efficient, making exercise less tiring. It also increases your blood flow so more blood can get into tired muscles.

Want to protect your joints?

Try: Omega-3 fatty acids. Recent studies have shown taking regular doses of omega-3 can help people suffering from arthritis and other joint problems because of its anti-inflammatory properties. It also prevents muscle wastage and can naturally make the joints less stiff and painful, especially after exercise.

The science: A study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh found omega-3 fatty acids enhance the creation of the natural anti-inflammatory prostaglandin E3, and lowers over eager white blood cells that lead to inflammation. You can get omega-3s from oily fish, such as salmon and sardines but taking a high-grade fish supplement means that you aren’t taking in as many contaminants and toxins as you find in some fish.

Recommended Daily Dose: Around 1,000mg. Eating 100g of sardines would equate to around 1,700mg of omega-3. Fish oil can go rancid very quickly so opt for a pure, high-quality fish oil, which gets its oil from smaller fish and from less polluted waters.

Want instant energy?

Try: Coenzyme Q10 (coQ10). This is naturally produced by your body and improves the ability of your muscle cells to convert oxygen in your bloodstream into usable energy. The problem is, coQ10 levels decrease with age, which can lead to illness and fatigue.

The Science: A University of Iowa study of 20 people with chronic fatigue syndrome showed those who took 100mg of coQ10 every day for three months wiped out 90% of their symptoms and doubled their energy levels. This is because coQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals in the body and helps the body convert glucose into energy.

Recommended Daily Dose: Take 100mg a day.

Brendan Wilde is a health and fitness journalist who writes for the UK National Register of Personal Training. Visit their website for information about personal training courses.

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