According to a survey of 1,000 Americans, roughly 18 percent of people spend one to two hours a day working out.
Based on the popularity of exercise platforms like ClassPass and Zen Rez and the explosion of boutique fitness in the past few years, we’d venture to guess that a healthy portion of that 18 percent of people are the millennial-aged women we see sweating right next to us every morning.
But on the quest for better health (and perfect abs), many everyday exercisers rely on their bodies to do more than the average couch potato. The result? Athletes’ bodies need a little more love and a few key supplements to maintain optimal health. If you’re always tired, constantly feel sore, or your regular workouts just seem way harder than usual, you might need to up your nutrition game and add these vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals to your arsenal.
Usually, we think of the main benefits of exercise as strictly superficial—less fat, more muscle. That being said, most people know that working out regularly also improves heart health, boosts your mood and energy levels, and can even kickstart a sluggish libido. But did you know that working out also has a serious effect on your gut bacteria? Research indicates that elite and professional athletes have twice as much microbiotic diversity compared to regular people. And that’s a good thing; more healthy gut bacteria results in better digestion and absorption of nutrients, lower levels of full-body inflammation, and improved mental health.
While it seems that more exercise encourages the gut bacteria to flourish, there’s also proof that taking a probiotic on the regular might actually up your athletic capabilities. A study found that runners performed better on a treadmill in 95-degree heat after taking a multi-strain probiotic for four weeks. So maybe you should make sure you get that probiotic in before your next class at Barry’s …
Technically, CoQ10 is an antioxidant, meaning it protects cells from free radical damage that can cause anything from premature aging to cancer. But it’s an important little compound that helps convert food into energy—which is clutch for anyone who’s burning serious calories on the daily. Researchers also believe that CoQ10 may help with heart-related conditions in addition to its antioxidant properties.
The darling of meathead bros and Instagram fitness stars alike, BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) are a bit mysterious to regular exercisers. BCAAs refers to three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The building blocks of muscle, amino acids are often taken to supplement regular protein intake to improve muscle mass and boost athletic recovery.
If you’re working out hard every single day because you’re training for a specific race or event, you might not be giving your bod enough time to chill out and fully recuperate. (If you’re not training for an event, you should definitely take rest days! There’s no reason to work out crazy-hard seven days in a row, especially if you want to see results.) When that happens, consider supplementing with BCAAs to help your body rebuild muscle. Just like taking a protein powder, adding BCAAs into your regimen won’t make you build bulky muscle. On the contrary, it will lean you out and increase your bod’s natural fat-burning capabilities.
Feeling exhausted from your daily 6 a.m. morning workouts? Isn’t working out supposed to make me more energized? you wonder. If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open when lunchtime rolls around, you might want to start taking vitamin D. A study published in Science Daily revealed that participants who took an oral dose of vitamin D for 10-12 weeks noticed a significant improvement in their overall fatigue levels. Most of us have a hard time getting our daily recommended amount of vitamin D, especially during the cooler months when the sun is hiding, so this is an important supplement to take in the winter.
You don’t need to be an athlete to see benefits from regularly taking magnesium. Necessary for more than 300 enzymatic processes in the body, magnesium is an incredibly important nutrient that most people are actually deficient in. The foods that are high in magnesium—leafy greens, seeds, nuts, and some grains—are typically grown in soil that’s been depleted of its magnesium and nutrient levels. Crops absorb whatever nutrients they can from the soil, which means that the food we’re eating doesn’t contain optimal amounts of the mineral.
Start taking a regular magnesium supplement and you’ll notice improved energy levels, deeper sleep patterns, and less muscle fatigue and soreness.