Everything you need to know about the benefits of vitamins, minerals, protein and other sports supplements if you’re an amateur athlete.

How can supplements boost fitness?

Sports supplements can help support an effective diet and training plan. They should not to be mistaken for an alternative to a healthy, balanced diet; supplements are supposed to help make up for any nutritional shortfall. And, when used effectively, they can help you to lose fat, gain muscle and boost energy.

Fighting fat with sports supplements

Caffeine
Caffeine will naturally boost your body’s metabolism to give you more energy during workouts, meaning your are likely to burn more calories. While caffeine is extremely effective in fat loss, it is important to monitor how much you have. It's recommended that you have no more than 400mg per day, which is equal to about five Espressos.

Caffeine can be ingested orally in pill or gum form and natural sources include coffee, green tea and dark chocolate.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a natural diuretic and can help rid the body of any excess water weight, as well as benefiting your immune system. Citrus fruits, green vegetables and tomatoes all contain high levels of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that can protect the body against infection and exercise-induced oxidative stress. It also helps the body to absorb iron and metabolise carbs for fuel.

Dissolvable and chewable tablets are available to hit vitamin C requirements, and grapefruits, oranges, lemons, spinach and kale are all natural sources.

Multivitamins
It can be easy to neglect many of the vitamin-dense foods in order to save on calories. A worthy multivitamin tablet including all the essential vitamins A, B, B12, C, D, E and K can prove an extremely effective compensation for this.

How to increase muscle mass with supplements

Protein
Protein is an important nutrient which helps support your immune system, create antibodies, replace dead cells and build muscle. Fish, milk and eggs are all rich sources of protein but if you struggle to plan meals, protein bars or shakes are a convenient way to boost intake.

A 2004 study published in the Nutrition Journal found protein could help increase muscle growth and promote lean body mass gain. Male participants of a university weight-training class were given daily protein bars containing either soy or whey protein. The results found both types of protein bar helped participants gain lean body mass but only the soy-based bar had an added antioxidant-preserving function.

According to research, high-protein diets could also enhance your weight loss by making you feel fuller for longer, thus helping reduce your overall food consumption. 'Protein bars could be used to support a higher protein intake to aid body fat loss through appetite regulation and increased metabolism, or as part of a higher protein diet for sports performance,' explains clinical performance nutritionist Martin MacDonald.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D promotes bone health and also aids in muscle efficiency. Our bodies make vitamin D on exposure to sunlight and natural food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, egg yolks, mushrooms and cheese. However, to achieve adequate levels you’re better off taking a supplement - especially in winter.

Supplements to boost energy

Calcium
Calcium, found in dairy products, is integral to strong bones and teeth as well as muscle contractions and energy metabolism. Too little could result in the release of the hormone calcitriol, which makes your body store unnecessary fat.

Iron
Iron helps maintain high energy levels and keeps the immune system strong. It also forms part of haemoglobin, the pigment that transports oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. Iron-rich foods include sardines, red meat and bran.

Omega 3
Fatty acids such as omega 3, which improve blood flow, are very important to include in your diet because your body can’t produce them. Find these essential acids in supplements or foods such as salmon, walnuts and soy beans.

A good combination

Using a combination of these supplements alongside a carefully planned nutrition and training plan will really help towards your muscle-building, fat-loss goals. While it is a challenge, for those who really care about their health and are dedicated to making their body the best it can be, it is achievable.

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