So you’re getting into sport and fitness; perhaps you have ventured into a gym for the first time or joined your very first group spin class. Amongst the chaos and sweat of everyone working hard and achieving their goals, you see bottles, tubs, pouches and sachets of all shapes and sizes. And conversations about protein, caffeine, carbohydrates and so much more that you just can’t remember.
Pills and potions as far as you were concerned but what really are sports supplements and are they right for you. Keep reading to find out…
The first point to note is that food supplements of any kind by their very name and nature are designed to be SUPPLEMENTARY to your normal diet and so they should not replace it. A healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle as well as plenty of water and sleep should be everyone’s number one priority before we even start to think about adding in supplements.
So what are sports nutrition supplements?
According to the IOC (that’s the International Olympic Committee) a sports supplement is defined as: a food, food component, nutrient, or non-food compound that is purposefully ingested in addition to the habitually consumed diet with the aim of achieving a specific health and/or performance benefit.
Food supplements have a place in everyone’s lifestyle and come in handy when we have a deficiency of some kind or when our dietary requirements limit our intake of particular nutrients.
For the everyday gym goer, parkrunner and fitness enthusiast, supplements can be the difference between them continuing on their fitness journey and not doing. The stresses and strains of their days, unlike for elite athletes, do not end when their workout ends. In fact, they are often just beginning. School runs, grocery shopping, social events and all the rest take up both time and energy that the body would otherwise need to properly recover and repair after a hard workout.
So supplementing things like protein, collagen, antioxidants, carbohydrates, vitamins & minerals are perfectly placed to help you and me to optimise your nutritional intake in really convenient ways. Saving us time to get on with everything else we need to do that day.
Types of sports supplements
Supplements really do come in all shapes and sizes, including tablets, capsules, liquids, powders, gels and bars to suit everyone’s preferences. And it is not uncommon for the same ingredient to be used in multiple products for this same reason. Like regular food, you want to enjoy the supplements you consume so delivery, taste are all big factors that both consumers and manufacturers definitely have in common.
The global sports nutrition supplements market was valued at 50.84 billion US dollars in 2018, and is expected to increase in value to 81.5 billion US dollars by 2023.
Among the more common ingredients and products are protein, creatine, and caffeine closely followed by energy and hydration drinks/gels.
And if that doesn’t quite cut it… the market for supplemental protein powders was worth over 4 billion US dollars alone in 2018.
The Big Three: Whey Protein
Whey protein is perhaps the most commonly used product and certainly up there as one of the most widely researched sports supplements on the market alongside things like creatine and caffeine.
Whey protein supplements come in all shapes and sizes. From the traditional flavoured/un-flavoured shakes, to bars and even some gel drinks now! These are great products to conveniently increase your daily protein intake and perfect for post-exercise recovery as a quick and efficient way to give your muscles the building blocks they need to re-build stronger.
Protein supplements are not limited to whey products. In fact, pea protein and other plant-based protein sources are becoming more and widespread. However, the most research and evidence stands behind whey protein as being the most effective and because it is so popular, it is very easy to find at great value.
Check out our blog on whey protein for an in-depth look at why we think it’s the choice for you. Click here.
The Big Three: Creatine
Now, for the more experienced athletes and gym goers out there, you might be familiar with something called Creatine Monohydrate or just Creatine for short.
Creatine, like whey protein is an incredibly popular and well researched supplement and is well known for its positive influence on muscle size and strength for short, high intensity routines. But there is also compelling evidence to demonstrate significant improvements in cycling strength and power too.
The Big Three: Caffeine
Last but not least is caffeine and no we’re not just talking about the occasional tea or coffee here. We’re talking about caffeine as a sports supplement. And again, it is one of the most accessible and effective out there with applications across team sports, high intensity activities and even endurance sports too.
Its primary benefit appears to come from its influence on the central nervous system and resulting in a reduced perception of both fatigue and effort as well as improving focus. You start to see why it’s a popular choice across all sports.
Carbohydrate gels and drinks are often combined with caffeine for that extra energy boost and these types of products are popular among endurance athletes for that very reason.
What other supplements can I choose from?
Superfood Blends are becoming more and more common as quick and convenient ways to supplement our diet with powerful, natural ingredients to support our gut microbiome, overall gut health, our digestive system, energy levels and even our mood. They do this by supplying your body with all the healthy bacteria and antioxidants the gut and digestive system in particular, need to function normally.
These typically come in powder form so you can add it to smoothies, fruit bowls, yoghurt, juice or just water. Something there for everyone. And the best thing is that as plant-based superfood blends, they are vegan and vegetarian friendly too!
But it doesn't stop there... super fruit blends like our active berries go above and beyond the call of duty to provide next level antioxidant support to fight off reactive oxygen species and the overall oxidative stress our cells experience every single day.
Certain fruits are naturally rich in powerful vitamins, antioxidants, polyphenols and phytonutrients that help neutralise and detoxify these reactive oxygen species helping the cells of entire body to repair more efficiently.
Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about this last one...the multi-vitamin!
As we have described already, limitations in our diet as well as significantly reduced exposure to sunlight during the autumn and winter months can lead to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals. Which are more often than not, critical for the maintenance of normal function of not only our immune system, but also our metabolism, bones, muscles and our brains too!
And this is where supplements come in… But we would never suggest you supplement individually, every single essential vitamin and mineral. That would be a lot of tablets!
But that's where the multi-vitamin proves to be really valuable. The holy grail of health & wellness supplements if you ask us.
And last but by no means least, we have Collagen supplements. Collagen supplements are relatively new to the sports nutrition world but are rapidly becoming more and more popular as research on their efficacy becomes even more prolific.
Gone are the days where collagen powders, capsules and drinks are only thought to benefit your hair, skin and nails. We now know that collagen peptides can have huge benefits for our entire body. Helping to maintain our muscles, ligaments, tendons; even our bones and cartilage too. Keeping us moving and active for as long as possible.
As collagen experts, our co-founders Greg & James know from research and experience just how important collagen supplements are for everyone, not just elite athletes. When we exercise we damage our body - in a good way so that we can rebuild and repair stronger, ready to go again. For more on how to fuel your next best performance, before, during and after; why not check out our recent blog... click here!
What sports supplements should I choose?
With listed quite a few already and you wouldn't be alone if you are feeling a little overwhelmed. But were going to make it easy for you.
As with all food products and supplements, the risk of contamination and banned substances is there so you should keep an eye out for products and brands who conform with Informed Sport and Informed Choice rules as this badge is a hallmark of quality, real results, and zero contamination.
Our entire collagen and protein product range is tested for banned substances under the Informed Sport programme. Products undergo rigorous testing using ISO 17025 accredited methods to provide the highest level of assurance for athletes. For further information about the testing process, please visit www.informed-sport.com
The U Perform range was designed from the ground up to address those areas of our diet and nutrition (remember from last week’s blog, these are quite different) that are most affected by exercise or that can help our performance and recovery the most.
Our science-led, evidence-backed approach means that we only use the very best ingredients and formulations to deliver real results at excellent value for money to you. From our clinically proven collagen supplement range, to green superfoods, antioxidant blends and those all-important vitamins & minerals – U Perform has your active lifestyle covered, so you can keep on smashing your health & fitness goals day after day.
You can subscribe and SAVE up to 20% on your favourite U Perform products. Subscriptions are hassle-free, convenient and you save money every single month. You can pause or cancel yourself at any time; no contract, no fees, you are in control.
Thanks for reading! As always, leave us a comment down below if you found this helpful or if you have any questions for us. Make sure to share this with someone who you know will benefit from reading this. The U Perform family loves sharing ideas and encouraging each other!