4 Nutrients for Better Workouts

Recover Faster and Build Lean Muscle

Following a strict diet and working out hard, day after day, can lead to nutrient deficiencies and ultimately hinder your muscle’s ability to make a proper recovery. Falling short with your diet or lacking a solid supplement regime will not only leave you deficient, but will also cut yourself short from reaching your full muscle-building potential.

Here are four common nutrients you need for muscle recovery.

Vitamins

Vitamins help unlock the energy from the foods we eat, so that they can be used in many metabolic pathways in the body. They can also help protect the body from oxidative damage brought on from a tough workout and assist in the synthesis and repair of muscle tissue during the recovery process.

Working out puts stress on multiple metabolic pathways that require more vitamins in order to make specific biochemical pathways happen. With continued exercise, micronutrient turnover increases and as a result, an increased need for more vitamins to help cover the increased needs to make a proper recovery. The most common vitamin deficiencies include vitamin D, B vitamins, as well as the antioxidant vitamins including vitamin A, C and E. Ensuring you eat a diet rich in whole natural and fresh foods including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables will help ensure you are getting your micronutrient needs met. Supplementing with a natural greens powder can also help you get a healthy natural dose of these essential vitamins and antioxidants.

Creatine

Creatine is an essential amino compound when it comes to driving muscle power and energy. Creatine increases the stores of phosphate available to convert ADP, adenosine di-phosphate, into useable energy ATP, adenosine tri-phosphate. The ATP-Creatine Phosphate system makes it possible to train harder, longer and with more power. The only problem is that the body’s creatine phosphate system is limited. Natural reserves of creatine phosphate only last for a few seconds of high-intensity training. The amount of ATP present can’t provide a continuous supply of energy, especially at high intensities. By increasing creatine stores, you can increase the availability of ATP, or readily available energy that the muscles need to keep pushing through sets and reps.

By supplementing with creatine monohydrate, you can naturally increase the availability of creatine phosphate available in the body. Just 3 to 5 grams per day for eight weeks can increase your creatine reserves, but that’s not all it will also help you maintain lean mass, increase strength and power.

Sodium and Potassium

The muscles function properly when the electrolytes sodium and potassium are balanced properly, but with continued sweat loss exercise performance becomes increasingly more diminished. Just 2 percent or more loss of bodyweight is enough to cause an imbalance of sodium and potassium, causing a direct impact on transport mechanisms in out of the muscle cells, fluid balance, muscle contraction and even nerve signal transmission throughout the body. Maintaining hydration is one of your best defenses against preventing losses in sodium and potassium. Aim to consume 0.5 to 2 L/h of fluid during exercise in order to prevent dehydration. Add a diet that delivers a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, along with raw nuts, seeds, whole eggs and lean meats, and you can help keep your balance of electrolytes.

In addition, during exercise consider keeping yourself hydrated with a natural electrolyte-rich beverage such as coconut water, which provides natural sources of sodium and potassium, and much less sugar than traditional sports drinks. Coconut water has also been shown to be as effective as sports drinks for maintaining hydration!

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

If you’re eating plenty of protein in your diet— at least 1 gram per pound of bodyweight— then you’re probably getting a good share of aminos to your muscles. However as you continue to exercise, aminos continue to deplete and muscle building can quickly go from anabolic to catabolic. BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, particularly leucine, have been shown to be the key nutrient for turning on protein synthesis when present, and turning off protein synthesis when absent. If you want to maintain your nitrogen balance, it’s important to make sure you are getting enough BCAAs before, during and after your workouts.

A recent study showed that resistance-trained individuals consuming 14 grams of BCAAs during an eight-week period experienced a significantly greater gain in bodyweight and lean mass, compared to a group who consumed whey protein. The BCAA group gained 2 kg of body mass, and 4 kg of lean body mass compared to the whey protein that only gained half as much body mass and lean body mass.

Why are BCAAs so effective? Because they’re free form, which means they’re not bound to other aminos that can slow down their digestion and delivery to the muscles. BCAAs can work quickly to get absorbed and directly where they need to be to stop catabolism from ever occurring!

References:
Casa, DJ Clarkson, PM, Roberts, WO. American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable on Hydration and Physical Activity: Consensus Statements. Current Sports Medicine Reports 2005, 4:115–127

Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. (2012). Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. May 8;9(1):20

Kilduff LP, Vidakovic P, et al. (2002). Effects of creatine on isometric bench press performance in resistance-trained humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 34(7): 1176-83.

Kreider, R., Ferreira, M., Wilson, M., Grindstaff, P., Plisk, S., & Reinhardy, J. et al. (1998). Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength and sprint performance. Med Sci Sport Exerc, 30, 73–82.

Norton & Layman. (2006). Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. J. Nutr. 136:533S-537S

Pasiakos SM, McClung HL, McClung JP, Margolis LM, Andersen NE, Cloutier GJ, Pikosky MA, Rood JC, Fielding RA, Young AJ. (2011). Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances post exercise muscle protein synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. Sep;94(3):809-18.

Telford, R.D., E.A. Catchpole, V. Deakin, A.G. Hahn, and A.W. Plank. The Effect of 7 to 8 Months of Vitamin/Mineral Supplementation on Athletic Performance. Int. J. Sport. Nutr. 2:135-153, 1999.

Telford, R.D., E.A. Catchpole, V. Deakin, A.C. McLeay, and A.W. Plank. The effect of 7 to 8 months of vitamin/mineral supplementation on the vitamin and mineral status of athletes. Int. J. Sport. Nutr. 2(2): 132-134, 1992.

Weight, L.M., T.D. Noakes, D. Labadarios, J. Graves, P. Jacobs, and P.A. Berman. Vitamin and mineral status of trained athletes including the effects of supplementation. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 47(2): 186-191, 1988.

Lauren Jacobsen

Lauren is the creator of Sexy, Strong and Fit Online Coaching Services specializing in transforming women to fitness model condition. Lauren has over 15 years of experience as a trainer, supplement consultant and nutrition expert. She is also the TV show host of "Body Fuel," a competitive athlete and regular contributor to various fitness publications.

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