Proper nutrition is an important element in any exercise regimen, and more and more people are turning toward supplements and protein to boost their workouts. In 2009, $19.6 billion was spent on nutritional supplements, sports and energy drinks, nutrition bars, low-carb foods and weight-loss supplements in 2009, and for good reason. (1). Everyone needs the same nutrients, whether or not they exercise, but those who are physically active will require higher calorie and fluid amounts, about 15% of which should come from protein. And, when they need more protein and other nutrients, many individuals will turn to nutrition stores to find supplements that will help them with their fitness routines.

Nutrex-HawaiiSince there have been issues with illegal supplements containing steroids (2), retailers should make sure that their products are clean. Retailers can look for certifications or marks on the label that prove the product has been certified by groups such as the World Anti-Doping Association or NSF International.

Just Starting Out
People on all rungs of the exercise ladder may come into your store for nutrition advice about what will best suit their fitness regimens. Let us start with the novice who is just starting to exercise or someone who wants to keep it light. They can stick to nutrition bars that have protein, vitamins and minerals.

Many people who have preexisting conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia can have difficulties with exercise because of pain or lack of energy. D-ribose, a naturally occurring five-carbon carbohydrate, can help. A recent study that had 203 patients take D-ribose for three weeks found that it increased their energy, mental clarity, sleep quality and overall well-being while decreasing pain (3).

For overweight individuals, supplements with DHEA might be a good recommendation. A study found that when DHEA was taken for eight weeks with a diet and an exercise regimen, it reduced more body mass index and overall weight in healthy overweight patients when compared with a placebo (4). Another study found that a branded DHEA (7-Keto) also increased the resting metabolic rate of individuals, which normally decreases with dieting. Without the supplement, the resting metabolic rate decreased by 3.9%, but increased by 1.9% when it was taken (5).

Natural dietary supplements containing bitter orange or 5- HTP can also be used to help with weight management. Bitter orange may speed up the heart rate and raise blood pressure in some people, so it may not be appropriate for those with heart conditions. 5-HTP raises serotonin levels, which helps regulate mood and behavior and studies have shown that it curbs the appetite (6).

People who are older can also take specific supplements to help them with their workouts, like creatine. This monohydrate of the skeletal muscle was found to enhance the strength-training program of 44 adults ages 55–84 years, and when taken with botanicals, improved blood lipids and self-reported vigor and even reduced body fat (7). Traditionally, creatine has been used by body builders to increase strength and enhance weight-lifting.

While omega-3s are known to lower the risk of certain heart conditions and aid in brain function, they can also slow down bone loss in postmenopausal women along with moderate-intensity weight-bearing exercise (8). Consuming 1,000 mg of omega-3 for 16 weeks along with aerobic exercise increased estrogen, boosted calcitonin (a hormone that metabolizes calcium and phosphorus) and slightly decreased parathyroid hormone (8).

Additional supplements that can help beginners start their exercise routine are iron and calcium. Those with iron deficiencies can tire quickly and taking from 10 to 15 milligrams of iron a day may improve performance in athletes who are truly iron deficient. Calcium supports strong bones and proper muscle function, thus preventing damage from the strain of exercise.

The Regulars
People who regularly exercise and have developed a strong routine can benefit from taking protein supplements, as proteins and amino acids are the building blocks of structural and mechanical functions in the body. The American Dietetic Association recommends that strength-trained individuals take 1.6 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day to maintain a positive nitrogen balance (9). Taking proteins with carbohydrates has been shown to be beneficial for performance, especially when taken hours before an event. Carbohydrates are a good source of nutrition for short-term, high-intensity activities like sprinting. Set the Bar High Knowledge about sports nutrition will help retailers win over this growing industry.

Whey, casein, soy and rice protein are good options when choosing a protein supplement. While whey and casein protein come from cow’s milk, soy and rice can be used by vegeterians. Whey protein is easily absorbed and is rich in vitamins and minerals. It contains a lot of cysteine, which increases antioxidants in the body. It also may support healthy immune function and prevent catabolic actions during exercise (10). Casein, like whey, is a complete protein and contains calcium and phosphorous. It forms a mass in the stomach that provides a “sustained slow release of amino acids into the blood stream, sometimes lasting for several hours. This provides better nitrogen retention and utilization by the body” (10). Soy is one of the most widely used vegetable protein sources and it may improve performance by increasing LDLcholesterol oxidation, while reducing plasma lipid profiles and high blood pressure (10). Rice protein has a higher carbohydrate count than soy or whey and helps with increasing energy and weight gain for athletes.

Betaine, an organic osmolyte, plays a key role in protecting cells against dehydration and stress-related water loss and can be a good addition to longer workouts and more intense activities. A study found that it increased leg muscle endurance and the quality of workouts (11).

Carnitine is an essential nutrient that oxidizes fatty acid and subsequently, produces energy, according to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, and it is included in dietary supplements “as an aid to weight loss, to improve exercise performance, and to enhance a sense of well-being” (12). One company specializing in carnitine (Lonza) says much research indicates it optimizes performance, decreases lactic acid accumulation and prevents muscle glycogen depletion, which minimizes fatigue during exercise and reduces muscle pain and damage (13). Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a compound that “provides a primary source of energy to power muscular activity” (14), and can be a helpful way for athletes to maintain their energy throughout physical activity. The Natural Health Research Institute recommends that for maximum physical endurance, dietary supplements that include creatine, which is an ATP initiator and an ATP sustainer, like ribose, can be taken to improve athletic performance.

Additionally, research has shown that grape extract can improve the antioxidative status and oxidative stress and physical performance in elite athletes. A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that after one month of taking grape extract and performing effort tests afterward, 20 athletes had better total physical performance, improved explosive power and less fatigue (15). The extract also reduced the plasmatic creatine phosphokinase concentration and increased hemoglobin levels, which suggests that it can protect against cell damage during exercise.

Electrolytes are essential for serious athletes to take, but are not necessary for less intense exercise. They “affect fluid balance in the body and are necessary for our nerves and muscles to function” according to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and should be replenished by those working out for more than 60 minutes at a time, since sweat is about 99% water and 1% electrolytes. It is recommended that electrolyte-enriched drinks with 15 to 18 grams of carbohydrates per eight fluid ounces be used, since too many carbohydrates may cause dehydration, cramps, nausea and diarrhea (16).

Those who need higher endurance for a longer period of time, like marathon runners, can take a chia supplement, which helps slow down the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates because they are high in fiber (17). Chia also contains protein for muscle building and repair, fatty acids for joint flexibility, antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals.

Serious athletes will benefit from all of the aforementioned supplements and proteins, but retailers can also suggest they look into others for energy, calories, fluids and endurance. The pros should consider take the basic supplements such as gPLC, HMB, BCAAs, l-glutamine, CoQ10, Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark), 5-HTP and a potent multivitamin.

Last, energy drinks are a popular way to get a little kick during workouts (see page 59).

Post-Exercise Recovery
After a workout, no matter how strenuous, a person’s body needs to repair itself. Milk protein is one way to address muscle soreness. A study followed 20 highly trained distance runners for six months and found that 70% of those taking a milk protein in the form of a powder reported an overall improvement in recovery time between training and racing, compared with 20% who took a control milk (18). Blood samples showed that creatine kinase, an enzymatic marker of muscle breakdown, decreased significantly overtime and reduced muscle damage as well as recovery time. Colostrum, a supplement from milk, helps athletes minimize their susceptibility to infections, shorten recovery time and accelerate the healing of injuries.

Branched-chained amino acids have also been found to allow athletes to recover quicker after a workout since they alleviate central fatigue (19). The amino acid, glutamine, used by the immune system to maintain optimal performance, is important for body builders since it reduces the amount of muscle deterioration.

Some research has also shown that taking a combination of carbohydrates and protein after exercise can aid in the repair of muscles (20). A full recovery after a workout ensures that the next one will not be painful and will allow for increased strength. WF


1. 2009 Sports Nutrition & Weight-loss Report, Nutrition Business Journal, www.nutritionbusinessjournal. com, accessed August 3, 2010.

2. “Research Indicates Nearly 25 Percent of Supplements Are Contaminated with Steroids, Stimulants and Banned Substances,”, accessed August 3, 2010.

3. J.E. Teitelbaum, C.A. Johnson, and J.A. St. Cyr, “Effective Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia with D-ribose (Corvalen)-A Multicenter Study,” J. Alt. Comp. Med. 12 (6), 857–862 (2006).

4. J.L. Zenk, et al., “The Effect of 7-Keto Naturalean on Weight Loss,” Curr. Ther. Res. 63, (4), 263–272 (2002).

5. J.L. Zenk, et al., “HUM5007, A Novel Combination of Thermogenic Compounds, and 3-acetyl-7-oxo-Dehydroepiandrosterone,” J. Nutr. Biochem. 18 (9), 629–634 (2007).

6. University of Maryland Medical Center “5-Hydroxytryptophan,”, accessed August 3, 2010.

7. M.E. Rogers, et al., “Effects of Creatine, Ginseng, and Astragalus Supplementation on Strength, Body Composition, Mood, and Blood Lipids During Strength- Training in Older Adults,” JSSM5, 60–69 (2006).

8. B. Tartibian, et al., “The Calciotropic Hormone Response to Omega-3 Supplementation During Long-term Weight-bearing Exercise Training in Post Menopausal Women,” JSSM9, 245–252 (2010).

9. “Nutrition and Athletic Performance,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 41 (3 ) 709–731 (2009)

10. J.R. Hoffman and M.J. Falvo, “Protein-Which Is Best?” JSSM3, 118–130 (2004).

11. E.C. Lee, et al., “Ergogenic Effect of Betaine Supplementation on Strength and Power Performance,” JISSN 7:27 (2010).

12. “Carnitine: The Science Behind a Conditionally Essential Nutrient,” National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (2004).

13. Lonza, Inc.,, accessed August 3, 2010.

14. Natural Health Research Institute, “Creatine & Ribose for ATP Production,”, accessed August 3, 2010.

15. S. Lafay, et al., “Grape Extract Improves Antioxidant Status and Physical Performance in Elite Male Athletes,” JSSM8, 468–480 (2009).

16. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, “Questions Most Frequently Asked About Sports Nutrition,”, accessed August 3, 2010.

17. K. Agin, “It’s Anyone’s Game,” WholeFoodsMagazine 32 (9), 38-46 (2009).

18. Stolle Milk Biologics, Inc. “Technical Bulletin: Tissue Sparing Effects: Muscle Recovery.”

19. Y. Shimomura, “Nutraceutical Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids on Skeletal Muscle,” J. Nutr. 136, 529S–532S (2006). 20. J.L. Ivy, “Regulation of Muscle Glycogen Repletion, Muscle Protein Synthesis and Repair Following Exercise,” JSSM3, 131–138 (2004).

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, September 2010