If you want to know everything on how to adapt your diet in order to improve your gym sessions and perform at your best, then keep on reading this article!
You know that to get fit and perform at the best during your workout, it’s not only what you do at the gym that counts, what you eat is also a major factor.
Both for the newbies or the ones already hitting the gym several times a week, your body is changing and creating more muscles. This way, you have different and specifics nutritional needs that you should adapt regarding the intensity and duration of your workout.
When you’re working hard at the gym, your body is consuming all kind of nutrients without you noticing it such as water, many energy substances, proteins, vitamins, minerals… That’s why you need to adapt your diet! Indeed, a healthy and balanced diet is essential in order to improve your physical performances.
Natural food supplements used to boost workout performances mainly are: substances that increase your muscle mass (amino acids), substances that help to produce more energy for your muscles, Essential Fatty Acids, minerals salts and metals and finally, stimulating substances (such as caffeine).
Let’s get started with all of these supplements, what they are and what they do to your body!
#1- The Muscle Builders
Amino acids are basically what built the proteins. When you practice a sport or go to the gym, your muscle mass is increasing. That’s why you need an adequate protein intake.
There are many amino acids which are important to consider for your diet if you want to increase your muscle mass:
- Arginine is produced by your body. It’s boosting the secretion of growth hormones, that’s why it’s a perfect nutrient if you want to build some muscles! This study also shows that arginine consumption increases your total strength and lean body mass. It’s also supposed to fight against tiredness, painful digestion, colds and to stimulate your immune system.
Animal Food Sources: pork, beef, chicken
Plant-Based Food Sources: soybeans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts, walnuts
- Carnitine is essential to your body as its carrying fatty acids into muscles cells, where they are then converted into energy. It’s an important contributor to cellular energy metabolism and is directly produced in your liver and kidneys. This amino acids improves your physical abilities, promotes weight loss and fights against tiredness. This study also demonstrates that carnitine consumption could improve your cognitive functions!
Animal Food Sources: lean beef, low fat pork, fish
Plant-Based Food Sources: beans, avocados
- Taurine is is one of the most abundant amino acids in the brain, retina, muscle tissue, and organs throughout the body. This amino acid is the most abundant intracellular nutrient. It plays an important role in your nervous system and is essential to a healthy development for children and is naturally produced in breast milk. By acting directly on your brain cells, it will boost your whole body. What’s more, it helps you fight anxiety, hyperactivity, fatigue, depression and has glucose-regulatory effects. Taurine has also been shown to protect various organs against damage induced by mental and oxidative stress.
Animal Food Sources: eggs, meat, and seafood
Plant-Based Food Sources: none
- The branched chain amino acids (BCAA), such as leucine, isoleucine or valine, are essential amino acids. This means that they are not naturally produced by your bodies, you need to adapt your diet in order to get your daily intake. They are used by our muscles as a source of energy by increasing resistance to fatigue, enhancing lipid oxidation during exercise, helping muscle recovery and boosting your immune system. These essential amino acids are also boosting the production of proteins.
Animal Food Sources: chicken breast, lean beef, and canned tuna
Plant-Based Food Sources: soybeans, lentils, cashews, almonds, chickpeas
Note that choline is commonly known to produce energy and enhance performance. Choline is a required nutrient that is essential for the normal development of the brain. It has many roles in human metabolism, from cell structure to neurotransmitter synthesis. However, there are no actual evidence that choline help you to build muscle or lose weight.
#2- The Energy Producers
Some substances will boost your body by providing energy. It’s a good addition to your diet when you’re hitting the gym, as you are burning much more calories:
- Creatine is a substance which is transformed into the muscles in order to provide energy during short or intense physical efforts. This way, it helps you to increase your muscle strength. Creatine has been shown to increase strength, fat free mass, and muscle morphology. Many studies also showed that creatine intake is increasing the capacity of doing the same workout exercise multiple times, endurance, and high intensity physical performances.
If you’re taking creatine supplements, don’t forget to drink a lot of water as it’s a dehydrating substance.
Animal Food Sources: chicken breast, turkey breast, fish
Plant-Based Food Sources: none direct source – for vegetarian: get enough of the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine which are used by your organism in production of creatine.
- Pyruvate is a keystone molecule critical for numerous aspects of the human metabolism. It’s used by your organism as a source of energy. It’s improving endurance and strengthening your heart. Researchers proved that a consumption of pyruvate associated with creatine is increasing physical abilities. Pyruvate is also commonly used in weight loss supplements, as it might help fats to be eliminated by your organism. Indeed, this nutrient could reduce your rate of weight gain and body fat content!
Animal Food Sources: cheese, red wine, dark beer
Plant-Based Food Sources: red apples
It’s important to talk about another nutrient, inosine, which is a natural substance that is helping our cells to produce energy, particularly in muscles. Many manufacturers will sell it it as an energy producer. However, studies showed that inosine is not improving your physical performances. On the contrary, it has been proven that this substance is weakening the body!
#3- The Body Fat Burners
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are not naturally produced by our body, that’s why it’s really important to eat some through your diet.
- CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) has the capacity to reduce the body fat levels as well as benefic actions on glycemic profile. Indeed, CLA is reducing the accumulation of fatty acids on the adipose tissue while increasing muscle mass. CLA supplementation has been used for years in sport to increase physical performances. This substance is also supposed to be anti-inflammatory, have beneficial effect on weight loss and reduce oxidative stress, which is accelerating the brain’s aging process and has many negative effects on the brain.
Animal Food Sources: beef, milk, eggs
Plant-Based Food Sources: mushroom, sunflower oils, pomegranate seed oil
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids, especially EPA and DHA, are the most effective and active omega-3 fats, have many health benefits including improving cardiovascular capabilities, brain development and cognitive functions and they also contain anti-inflammatory substances. Many studies showed that omega-3 supplementation could provide benefits by minimizing the recovery time between 2 workout sessions because it’s reducing the inflammatory response in the muscle tissue and delaying the muscle soreness.
Animal Food Sources: wild atlantic salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna
Plant-Based Food Sources: flaxseed oil, chia seeds, canola oil, soybean oil, walnut
#4- The Essential Ones
Mineral salts and metals are essential to your body and are consume much more quickly when you workout, which could lead to a deficiency.
Magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and chromium are 4 major nutrients that help you perform better during your workout. In order to improve your physical performances, you should definitely add these 4 mineral salts and metals to your diet.
- Magnesium is a really major nutrient as it participates in more than 300 chemical reactions in your organism! It takes actions in energy production inside the cells, lipid utilization, and regulation in blood sugar level. It’s also essential for helping muscles to relax after an effort and may contribute to the enhancement of exercise performance. When you workout, your body is consuming much more quickly all your magnesium reserves, which leads to decrease your sportive capabilities.
Animal Food Sources: mackerel, wild salmon,
Plant-Based Food Sources: nuts, dark leafy greens, seeds, soybeans, avocado, banana
- Iron is an essential element for almost all living organisms as it participates in a wide variety of metabolic processes such as oxygen transport, DNA synthesis, and electron transport. Many studies proved that iron consumption is beneficial for everyone who has a regular physical activity. Indeed, low level of iron can cause anemia, and thus limit the delivery of oxygen in your muscle. This can result in a significant reduction in exercise performance. A diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene is perfect in order to keep a high level of iron, even during an intense workout.
Animal Food Sources: Fish, eggs, liver, oysters
Plant-Based Food Sources: chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, lentils
See also: 5 Meals to Replenish Your Iron Stores
- Phosphorus intake is a major element in energy production in your cells. It’s increasing the use of oxygen into the muscles, and thus, your endurance. That’s why this nutrient is a good addition to your diet if you like running, cycling or cardio workouts. In addition, studies showed that a daily phosphorus consumption is improving your cognitive abilities. That’s right, phosphorus makes you run faster and think better!
Animal Food Sources: milk, dairy products, meat, fish, chicken, pork
Plant-Based Food Sources: nuts, edamame, quinoa, tofu
- Chromium is a popular oligo-element that helps you to perform at your best. It takes a major part in the use of fatty acids, proteins and carbs. Chromium is also helping your organism to regulate the level of sugar in the blood.
Animal Food Sources: turkey breast, cheese, egg yolks
Plant-Based Food Sources: broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, apples, bananas
#5- The Extra-Stimulating Substance
This one is not a secret, caffeine is the best stimulating and boosting natural substance in the market! When you workout, caffeine intake will stimulate your organism in many ways:
- It improves your focus and concentration
- It increases your heart rate and dilates the coronary arteries, which lead to a better oxygenation of the cardiac muscle
- It increases the use of fatty acids for energy production
- It delays the feeling of tiredness and exhaustion
Caffeine is also used in order to lose weight as it’s reducing appetite, it has diuretic properties and has a mild laxative effect.
The daily recommendation is different in countries, it varies between 200 to 400mg of caffeine for adults. Many foods and drinks contain caffeine, such as: coffee (of course), green tea, dark chocolate, yerba maté, and guarana.
What Are the Potential Risks to Consume These Substances?
You should be really careful not to take more than the daily recommended intake, which is different for every nutrient.
For example, an arginine or carnitine excess could lead to nausea, diarrhea and stomach pain. Choline is not appropriate for people dealing with depression.
It’s also important to note that you should adapt your omega-3 fatty acids intake with your omega-6 fatty acids in order to have a healthy cardiovascular system. Indeed, the daily recommended intake is to eat 5 times more omega-6 than omega-3.
Caffeine excess is causing anxiety, nervosity and insomnia. It’s also accelerating dehydration as it has a diuretic effect.
Everyday Tips to Boost Your Workout Performances
Eat More Carbs
Carbs are not your enemy, they provide your body with energy. It’s important to eat some carbs in order to perform at your best during workouts. Choose sugar which have a slow digestion, such as bread, wholegrain cereals, fruits. They bring glucose more regularly and on a longer time than sugary snacks or drinks. These kind of carbs are perfect 1 hour before your workout.
Get Some Vitamins
Vitamins contribute to protect muscles cells during a physical effort, and fix them during the recovery phase. Your vitamins needs are not the same depending on the sport you practice:
- For intense workouts, with prolonged and repeated exercises, you have a higher need in vitamin B and C. You’ll find some in fruits, fresh vegetables and cereals.
- For endurance sports, it’s recommended to eat food with a high concentration in vitamin B, C, E and beta-carotene. Fruits, fresh vegetables and meats are your go-to foods.
- For strength workouts, you’ll prefer vitamin B6, C, E and beta-carotene. Fruits, fresh vegetables, nuts and fish oils have a high concentration of these nutrients.
Eat Proteins, But Not in Excess
Many people think that in order to increase the muscle mass, they just need to eat more proteins. That is not quite true! Indeed, only workout will stimulate the gain in muscle mass. Of course, you should eat enough proteins to ensure this development. For information, the recommended daily intake for endurance sports in proteins is 1.2 to 1.4g per kg of the body weight.