Men’s magazines are loaded with recommendations for supplements aimed at hard-core athletes. But are any of them actually effective? And what about the average guy who’s not competing at a high level? We asked Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a nutritional consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, among others. Here’s Bonci’s best advice on what to use, and what to avoid.
Omega 3 Fat: “The antiinflammatory benefit and heart healthy benefits will have an impact,” Bonci says. “And it’s really hard to get that much in your daily diet.” If fish oil doesn’t work for you, algae-based Omega 3’s are a good alternative.
Protein Isolate: Bonci favors powdered protein isolates for their versatility. “A protein in powder form will be more versatile,” she says. “You can mix it into oatmeal or in a shake.” You can also choose from different types of protein — whey, casein, etc. “Also, premixed shakes can be loaded with unnecessary calories.”
The Recovery Trifecta: “Ginger, turmeric and boswellia all have really big anti-inflammatory effects,” Bonci says. She recommends ginger and turmeric for combatting delayed-onset muscle soreness after hard workouts, while boswellia is more effective for alleviating muscle tweaks, like a strained hamstring. “Take a mix of the three before bed,” she says, recommending 500mg of ginger, 400mg of boswellia and 1200mg of turmeric. “The effects are faster than glucosamine/chondroitin and it works on a larger population.”
What to Avoid
Energy Shooters: “The name ‘5-hour Energy’ is really very misleading,” she says. “It’s not calories, it’s a stimulant, so you’ll get a boost for about half an hour and that’s it.” Also, the high concentration of caffeine can raise a heart rate that’s already elevated when you exercise.
The Cleanses: “I’ve confiscated many of them from my athletes,” Bonci says. “It’s so counterproductive to performance.” Her aversion to the trendy cleanses is due to their diuretic (and diarrheal) properties. “It can totally dehydrate and lead to electrolyte imbalance.”
Growth Stacks: “Avoid anything you see like animal pack or growth or anabolic on the label,” she says. “It probably won’t do what it says, and it’ll be adding a hormone to the body,” which affects its ability to make its own hormones. “Protein isolate will do a lot more and it’ll cost you a lot less.”
—by Billy Brown