A science-based review on selected supplements

The market is full of supplements. These targets the youth, the aged, people interested in sports, and those seeking to reduce or increase weight. Some claim to help build muscles, strengthen bones, joints, prevent heart attacks, build immunity, protect you from infections, prevent cancer, and make you look younger. Each supplement advertisement presents a scientific study in its support.

Not just that, the diet world is equally confusing. Some recommend the complete prohibition of red meat, others urge you to adopt a vegan diet, forbid you to consume dairy products, ask you to consume only fats or proteins or fibers. Some books extol the virtues of probiotics, state that if you keep the gut microbiome diverse and healthy, you will be disease-free.

Isn’t this quite confusing? Let us try to present some facts and help end some of this confusion.

We, as individuals have differing needs. Our physical conditions are different. Not just that we have differing lifestyles, health objectives, and health needs. Our choice of food or a supplement should, therefore, be guided by our physical condition, our objective, and our need. Generic recommendations are slowly becoming a thing of the past. We are slowly but surely entering the era of personalized nutrition.

The linkages between our genes, metabolism, and the environment are now better understood than before. The link between our genes and the risk of acquiring a disease like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and even cancer is now getting universally recognized. Many professional sportsmen are taking the services of gene mapping cum fitness and nutrition experts to secure a customized recommendation diet for both fitness and nutrition. 

Natural food diets can meet normal nutritional needs. But there are so many who have special needs. For instance, sportsmen may require protein and mineral supplements to help build muscle mass, acquiring better agility and greater strength. Others face a deficiency of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, and other molecules.

Given the diversity of need, supplement providers have started offering a broad range of solutions that fulfill an individual need. We will analyze some of the key supplement groups, and present scientific facts to enable, you, consumers to make an informed choice on what supplement to buy and consume.

Muscle mass and strength building supplements

Protein supplements used by athletes and recreationally active adults have been observed to achieve greater gains in muscle mass, strength, and improve physical performance. (Pasiakos, S.M., et al., 2015) Protein supplements are also used by patients with hip and other fractures to hasten the healing process. (Chevalley, T., et al., 2010; Schurch, M.A., et al., 1998)

Protein supplements containing leucine metabolites have a positive effect on muscle metabolism during resistance training. These have been noted to not just prevent muscle damage during training but will also help increase muscle mass from resistance training. (Nissen, S., et al., 1996) Post-exercise protein-carbohydrate and carbohydrate supplements help increase muscle glycogen in both men and women. (Tarnopolsky, M.A., et al., 1997)

Carbohydrate supplements

A review of scientific literature showed that carbohydrate supplements before, during, and immediately after resistance training is advisable for athletes. (Haff G.G., et al., 2003) Carbohydrates taken in the form of a drink can improve exercise performance by maintaining blood glucose levels sparing endogenous glycogen stores. (Campbell, C., et al., 2008; Vandenbogaerde, T.J., et al., 2011)

To maximize glycogen resynthesis after exercise, a carbohydrate supplement over 1.0 g per kilogram of body weight should be consumed immediately after completion of a training bout. Continuation of supplementation every two hours will maintain a rapid rate of storage up to six hours post-exercise. Supplements composed of glucose or glucose polymers are the most effective for the replenishment of muscle glycogen, whereas fructose is most beneficial for the replenishment of liver glycogen. The addition of protein to a carbohydrate supplement may also increase the rate of glycogen storage due to the ability of protein and carbohydrate to act synergistically on insulin secretion. (Ivy, J.L., 1998)

Amino acid-based supplements

Providing an ample supply of essential amino acids to the muscle within one to three hours before or following exercise may help to further muscle protein synthesis. Consuming a small amount of protein and carbohydrate, either as a protein/carbohydrate energy drink or whole foods, before or after exercise training may be prudent behavior for many athletes. (Williams, M., 2005) Amino acid supplements help in recovery during periods of overreaching by athletes and also decrease the risk of injury or illness. (Sharp, C.P., et al., 2010)

The timing of the ingestion of supplements like amino acid supplements is important. Supplement timing represents a simple but effective strategy that enhances the adaptations that are desired from resistance training. (Wolfe, R.R, 2000, Cribb, P.J., et al., 2006)

Creatinine supplements

Creatinine supplements have been shown to increase muscular strength and power. These will give the best results when consumed immediately post-workout. (Antonio, J., et al., 2013) Creatinine requires to be evacuated from the body. Regular checkups are advised to detect any potential dysfunction that may appear in some individuals less able to adapt to this supplement. (Poortmans, J. R., et al., 2000)

 

Pre and post-workout supplements

Athletes are interested in nutritional manipulations that may enhance lean tissue gains stimulated by resistance training. A trail with 19 untrained men who consumed either a milk or carbohydrate-electrolyte drink following each workout during a 10-week resistance training program helped in improving muscle strength. (Rankin, J.W., et al., 2004)

It has also been seen that pre-workout supplements can delay fatigue during strenuous exercise. (Spradley, B.D., et al., 2012) These pre-workout supplements improved the overall performance of the body. (Smith, A.E., et al., 2010)

Weight loss supplements

Supplements containing leucine, bioactive peptides, and milk calcium were observed to cause a reduction in body fat mass with a concomitant risk reduction of obesity-related disease.  (Frestedt, J.L., et al., 2008) Supplements containing a combination of tyrosine, capsaicin, catechins, and caffeine were seen to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, promoting fullness, fat breakdown, and attendant weight loss. (Belza, A., et al., 2007).

A herbal mixture of a Chinese herb Ma Huang (Ephedra sinica plant) and Brazilian herb Guarana (Paulina cupana) was also seen to promote short-term weight and fat loss in a randomized, double-blind clinical trial. (Boozer, C. N., et al., 2001)

Nutrition supplements that increase fat metabolism or energy expenditure, impair fat absorption, increase weight loss, increase fat oxidation during exercise are called fat burner supplements. Caffeine and green tea have data to back up its fat metabolism-enhancing properties and supplements containing these will help in weight loss. (Jeukendrup, A. E., et al., 2011)

Weight reduction is achieved with the help of dietary supplements by two methods. They provide nutrients that may be inadequate in calorie-restricted diets and also by helping stimulate weight loss. Customers need to pick supplements that achieve nutrient adequacy and maintain electrolyte balance while avoiding the risk of excessive nutrient intakes. Certain botanical and other types of dietary supplements can help you achieve weight loss goals. Certain supplements contain Ephedra and ephedrine which have been singed out by the Food and Drug Administration for their safety and these should be avoided. (Dwyer, J.T., et al., 2005)

Botanical supplements

We have other natural dietary supplements which are called “starch blockers” which are listed as natural weight loss supplements. Such supplements interfere with the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, thereby reducing, availability of carbohydrate-derived calories provided by foods containing resistant starches. One such natural weight loss supplement contains Phaseolus vulgaris extract is effective in bringing about weight loss.  This supplement helps reduce fat. (Celleno, L., et al., 2007).

Green tea beverage which contains catechin also helps enhance exercise-induced changes in abdominal fat. (Maki, K.C., et al., 2009) It is, however, prudent for customers seeking to use weight loss supplements to do so under medical advice as some of the supplements could be harmful to their health. (Saper, R.B., et al., 2004)

 

References:

Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. (2013). The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 1-8.

Belza, A., Frandsen, E., & Kondrup, J. (2007). Body fat loss achieved by stimulation of thermogenesis by a combination of bioactive food ingredients: a placebo-controlled, double-blind 8-week intervention in obese subjects. International journal of obesity, 31(1), 121-130.

Boozer, C. N., Nasser, J. A., Heymsfield, S. B., Wang, V., Chen, G., & Solomon, J. L. (2001). An herbal supplement containing Ma Huang-Guarana for weight loss: a randomized, double-blind trial. International Journal of Obesity, 25(3), 316-324.

Campbell, C., Prince, D., Braun, M., Applegate, E., & Casazza, G. A. (2008). Carbohydrate-supplement form and exercise performance. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 18(2), 179-190.

Celleno, L., Tolaini, M. V., D’Amore, A., Perricone, N. V., & Preuss, H. G. (2007). A dietary supplement containing standardized Phaseolus vulgaris extract influences body composition of overweight men and women. International journal of medical sciences, 4(1), 45.

Chevalley, T., Hoffmeyer, P., Bonjour, J. P., & Rizzoli, R. (2010). Early serum IGF-I response to oral protein supplements in elderly women with a recent hip fracture. Clinical Nutrition, 29(1), 78-83.

Cribb, P. J., & Hayes, A. (2006). Effects of supplement-timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 38(11), 1918-1925.

Dwyer, J. T., Allison, D. B., & Coates, P. M. (2005). Dietary supplements in weight reduction. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(5), 80-86.

Frestedt, J. L., Zenk, J. L., Kuskowski, M. A., Ward, L. S., & Bastian, E. D. (2008). A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical study. Nutrition & metabolism, 5(1), 8.

Grillenberger, M., Neumann, C. G., Murphy, S. P., Bwibo, N. O., Van’t Veer, P., Hautvast, J. G., & West, C. E. (2003). Food supplements have a positive impact on weight gain and the addition of animal source foods increases lean body mass of Kenyan schoolchildren. The Journal of nutrition, 133(11), 3957S-3964S.

Haff, G. G., Lehmkuhl, M. J., McCoy, L. B., & Stone, M. H. (2003). Carbohydrate supplementation and resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(1), 187-196.

Ivy, J. L. (1998). Glycogen resynthesis after exercise: effect of carbohydrate intake. International journal of sports medicine, 19(S 2), S142-S145.

Jeukendrup, A. E., & Randell, R. (2011). Fat burners: nutrition supplements that increase fat metabolism. Obesity reviews, 12(10), 841-851.

Maki, K. C., Reeves, M. S., Farmer, M., Yasunaga, K., Matsuo, N., Katsuragi, Y., … & Blumberg, J. B. (2009). Green tea catechin consumption enhances exercise-induced abdominal fat loss in overweight and obese adults. The Journal of nutrition, 139(2), 264-270.

Nissen, S., Sharp, R., Ray, M., Rathmacher, J. A., Rice, D., Fuller Jr, J. C., … & Abumrad, N. J. J. O. A. P. (1996). Effect of leucine metabolite β-hydroxy-β-methyl butyrate on muscle metabolism during resistance exercise training. Journal of Applied Physiology, 81(5), 2095-2104.

Pasiakos, S. M., McLellan, T. M., & Lieberman, H. R. (2015). The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports Medicine, 45(1), 111-131.

Poortmans, J. R., & Francaux, M. (2000). Adverse effects of creatine supplementation. Sports Medicine, 30(3), 155-170.

Rankin, J. W., Goldman, L. P., Puglisi, M. J., Nickols-Richardson, S. M., Earthman, C. P., & Gwazdauskas, F. C. (2004). Effect of post-exercise supplement consumption on adaptations to resistance training. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(4), 322-330.

Saper, R. B., Eisenberg, D. M., & Phillips, R. S. (2004). Common dietary supplements for weight loss. American family physician, 70(9), 1731-1738.

Schurch, M. A., Rizzoli, R., Slosman, D., Vadas, L., Vergnaud, P., & Bonjour, J. P. (1998). Protein supplements increase serum insulin-like growth factor-I levels and attenuate proximal femur bone loss in patients with recent hip fracture: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Annals of internal medicine, 128(10), 801-809.

Sharp, C. P., & Pearson, D. R. (2010). Amino acid supplements and recovery from high-intensity resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(4), 1125-1130.

Smith, A. E., Fukuda, D. H., Kendall, K. L., & Stout, J. R. (2010). The effects of a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, and amino acids during three weeks of high-intensity exercise on aerobic and anaerobic performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(1), 1-11.

Spradley, B. D., Crowley, K. R., Tai, C. Y., Kendall, K. L., Fukuda, D. H., Esposito, E. N., … & Moon, J. R. (2012). Ingesting a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, B-vitamins, amino acids, creatine, and beta-alanine before exercise delays fatigue while improving reaction time and muscular endurance. Nutrition & metabolism, 9(1), 1-9.

Tarnopolsky, M. A., Bosman, M., Macdonald, J. R., Vandeputte, D., Martin, J., & Roy, B. D. (1997). Postexercise protein-carbohydrate and carbohydrate supplements increase muscle glycogen in men and women. Journal of applied physiology, 83(6), 1877-1883.

Vandenbogaerde, T. J., & Hopkins, W. G. (2011). Effects of acute carbohydrate supplementation on endurance performance. Sports medicine, 41(9), 773-792.

Williams, M. (2005). Dietary supplements and sports performance: amino acids. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2(2), 63.

Wolfe, R. R. (2000). Protein supplements and exercise. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 72(2), 551S-557S.

Author

Sudhir Ahluwalia is the President of Sudhirahluwalia, Inc, a US incorporated corporation providing end to end content and business advisory services to the natural products industry. He is the author of four books and three video books on herbs and nutrition. He has in the past been a freelance columnist. His company website is www.sudhirahluwalia.com



 

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