You could argue that my commitment to 4 a.m. gym sessions is enough to label me a bit nutty, but I assure you it’s the kind of activity I need to get my mind revved and ready to tackle the PR activities awaiting at the office.
When I mention my workout regimen to interested parties, the usual question (after the wide-eyed look of horror) is, “How do you have the energy?”
Well, much as I would love to claim some superhuman ability to be eternally high-wired, the truth is I often need help in the form of dietary supplementation. In fact, I’m not alone. According to one JAMA study, over 40% of people say they too opt for supplements when looking to increase their all-around energy levels.
A quick fix for many is the standard convenience store energy drink. In one survey, researchers found that one in three adults report consuming energy drinks within the week. Of the sample, 21% admitted to having more than one per week and 11% revealed they have more than three per week. But if you’re looking to start a fitness regimen and adopt a healthier lifestyle you probably shouldn’t be grabbing some hazardous energy concoction with ludicrous amounts of sugar, caffeine and artificiality to help do the trick. And if you think the repetitive use of these liquid stimulants benefits the body’s performance levels, think again.
A study from The Department of Exercise Science at Creighton University examined the effect of sugar-free Red Bull on a one repetition bench press. The results determined that the drink offered no improvement or enhancement of the one repetition performed by seventeen college-age, resistance-trained men. Another study found that a low-calorie caffeine-taurine energy drink did not enhance sprint performance and anaerobic power of the 20 NCAA Division 1 football players who participated. Hardly a strong case for the use of energy drinks before or during physical exercise.
Luckily, there are safer, effective and more natural options to turn to for the energy and stamina to fuel a workout.
- Branched Chain Amino Acids– There are a plethora of benefits to taking BCAAs,. These nutrients can be found in protein-rich foods such as chicken, but can also be bought in pill or powder form from any nutrient shop. They are frequently cited as essential muscle-building components within the bodybuilding community, but these health gems aren’t just for the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the world. BCAAs are made up of the three essential amino acids your body needs to help in its proper daily functioning. When ingested before and during a workout, BCAAs are sent directly to your muscles, where they are utilized as fuel. This makes getting ready for and powering through any exercise routine a much less tiresome task.
- Whole Grains– Healthy carbohydrates like whole grains (brown rice, quinoa and millet) supply energy to the body in the form of glucose– the sugar your muscle cells rely on for fuel. Because of their fibrous characteristics, the body breaks down these grains more slowly; so they are considered key in providing steadier forms of energy for exercise. (Go carbs!)
- Water– I know you’ve seen this stressed greatly within the health community — and for good reason! Aside from preventing dehydration, water can be a great energy-inducing supplement. According to Harvard Health, water is vital for carrying nutrients to cells, and too little of it can make a world of difference between a halfhearted or full-throttle workout attempt. There have been recent concerns of overhydration during exercise, but the key to optimizing water is drinking it only when you are thirsty and in the right amounts. During long workouts, for instance, sipping on small amounts every 15-30 is sufficient.
So what’s the bottom line when using supplements for energy? You don’t need to get fancy! I’ve personally been taking the supplements outlined above for months now and am a huge proponent of their power and potency. I simply don’t believe I need anything else!