If you’re an athlete yearning for peak performance, then this article is for you. You’ll discover the top five supplements that have been proven scientifically to enhance your performance.
Let’s get to it!
The 5 Best Performance Supplements
In contrast to the other compounds outlined below, creatine doesn’t provide an acute increase in performance. Instead, it takes a while for the effects of creatine to build up.
Creatine enhances performance in three main ways, all of which take time to manifest. These are by:
- Improving cellular hydration
- Increasing lean body mass
- Aiding energy production (ATP) by enhancing muscle phosphocreatine (CP) stores
The result is that creatine supplementation makes you stronger and more powerful, a finding that’s backed by dozens of studies.
Two meta-analyses, for instance, found that creatine supplementation significantly increased power output in both male and female subjects over eight weeks.(1)(2)
(After those eight weeks, however, the improvement over placebo was maintained instead of being enhanced further.)
The rate at which those who supplemented with creatine gained power from a resistance-training program was up to 78.5% greater.
For the average resistance-trained male, that represents around an extra ten kilograms for the squat and seven kilograms for the bench press.(3)
Not bad! Especially when you consider that all you have to do is consume twenty-five grams of creatine monohydrate per day for five days and then follow that up with daily supplementation of five grams.
While creatine boosts strength and power performance, the amino acid beta-alanine enhances performance in higher rep ranges (~fifteen or more reps).(4)(5)
The compound produces these benefits by helping your muscles buffer acidity. That's beneficial because during higher rep training, substances like lactic acid cause your muscles to become more acidic.
The result of that acidity is a reduction in performance. (Your muscles can't contract optimally in an acidic environment.) But supplementing with beta-alanine prevents that performance drop.
Therefore, beta-alanine helps you perform better during high rep training, which is beneficial because you’ll then be able to introduce a more potent muscle-building stimulus to your muscles.(6)(7)
To reap the benefits of beta-alanine, consume three to four milligrams around 45 minutes before your workout. It’s best to take it alongside creatine as that enhances its effectiveness.(8)
Caffeine is by far the most popular performance-enhancing drug. It's also the main ingredient in most pre-workout supplements – and for a good reason. It's well-established that caffeine boosts athletic performance.
Research shows that caffeine:
- improves aerobic and anaerobic performance (9)
- enhances muscle strength (10)
- boosts focus and alertness (11)(12)
- can ward off morning sickness (13)
- speeds up metabolism (14)
The downside of caffeine, however, is that you quickly become tolerant to the compound, even if you take it at low dosages.
One study noted complete tolerance to the performance-enhancing effects after four weeks of consuming 1.5 to 3 milligram of caffeine per kilogram of body weight per day (0.7 to 1.4 g/lbs/d).(15)
That’s why it’s essential to use caffeine sparingly. An effective guideline to maintaining the beneficial effects of caffeine on performance is to ingest the compound no more than twice per week.
If you’ve already built up a tolerance, you can reverse it by abstaining from all caffeine-containing products for two weeks. From there on, take three grams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight before your workout (0.7 to 1.4 g/lbs/d).
4) Citrulline Malate
Citrulline malate is a rock-star vasodilator and nitric oxide enhancer. That’s why consuming this compound before your workout helps you to get a bigger muscle pump in the gym.
Not only is that skin-splitting pump pleasurable, but it also enhances your performance. The reason is that the improved blood flow helps to clear ammonia from your muscles.(16)
That’s all good because elevated ammonia levels reduce the ability of your muscle to contract, which it does by inhibiting the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl chloride.
Since citrulline malate helps your body to get rid of ammonia, consuming this compound before you set foot in the gym helps you to perform more reps.(17)(18)
To reap the benefits of citrulline malate, consume the compound around thirty minutes before your workout, ideally in combination with the other compounds outlined in this article.
5) Beetroot Extract
Beetroots are a fantastic source of inorganic nitrates. Nitrates can improve exercise performance by increasing the efficiency of mitochondria. These are the cell organs of muscles that are responsible for energy production.(19)
Various studies have shown that dietary nitrates reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and improve the time to exhaustion during training.(20)(21)
Besides, placebo-controlled research found that consuming 200 grams of beetroot before working out improved how fast people could run a distance of five kilometers on a treadmill.(22)
So, if you want to improve your endurance, drink beetroot juice before your workout. Alternatively, you can also supplement with it in the form of beetroot extract.