Improved performance is one of the top goals of sports nutrition consumers of all levels, from elite to recreationally active. Such performance gains require adequate and surplus energy, as well as muscle function support. A number of natural ingredients have been researched for such mechanisms and resultant performance benefits.
Energy is created in the body by a process called cellular respiration that features many biochemical processes inside the cell mitochondria that convert mainly carbohydrates and fatty acids to energythe breaking of phosphate bonds from the “energy molecule" adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Compounds like ribose, creatine, carnitine and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) play direct roles in these processes and are foundational starting points for energy formulas targeting performance.
Still other ingredients such as citrulline, arginine, beetroot and beta alanine offer support to energy production by increasing blood flow and limiting buildup of fatigue-promoting compounds. And antioxidants including astaxanthin, tart cherry and tea support performance goals by addressing oxidative stress and even inflammation that can hinder exercise and endurance.
While caffeine is popular in sports energy and performance products, it can be a double-edged sword, as it is habit-forming and can over-excite the central nervous system and heart. Other stimulants such as theacrine may offer similar benefits without the negative side effects.
Another popular sports ingredient is protein. There is some debate, as well as a lack of studies, on the usefulness of taking protein as part of a pre-workout regimen, as its bread and butter benefit seems to involve muscle recovery. However, there are theoretical benefits to taking protein before a workout, including the ability to immediately replenish branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) broken down during exercise and delay fatigue. Meanwhile, protein-related compounds including amino acids and derivatives have some early research results suggesting performance benefits such as increased strength and power output.
For a closer look at the latest research on these and other ingredients targeting energy and performance enhancement, check out the INSIDER special Digital Magazine, “Sports Nutrition: Performance and Energy."