Supplements for Exercise: 5 That Can Help You Get the Get-Up-and-Go
If you’re convinced of the benefits of exercise, but just don’t seem to have the energy or motivation to follow through on exercise resolutions, there could be more going on than you realize. You may be depressed. You may be discouraged and think you can’t do it. Or you may be run down, recovering from illness, nutritionally depleted and just not have the physical energy to get started. That puts you in a bad spot, because being sedentary saps energy. And the reverse is true. Regular, moderate exercise gives you more energy over time.
Nutritional supplements can make it easier to exercise, in some cases. They’ll be especially helpful if you’re nutritionally depleted. Lots of doctors simply don’t recognize or treat the subtle nutritional depletions that can interfere with energy metabolism and mood. Here are some supplements that can improve energy production and brighten your mood, making it easier to exercise.
1. Magnesium and Exercise
This mineral is absolutely essential for energy metabolism — it’s needed for cells to make ATP, the fuel they “burn” for energy. Most people don’t get enough magnesium, and older people, especially those taking diuretics, are particularly likely to come up short.
A USDA study found that it was easy to make healthy, postmenopausal women deficient in magnesium by giving them a fairly typical American diet of mostly processed foods. The deficiency had a negative impact on the womens’ ability to ride an exercise bicycle. It made their muscles, including their heart muscle, work less efficiently, so it took more effort to do the same amount of “work.” Magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve performance in female athletes with “low-normal” blood levels, and in elite male rowers.
Extra magnesium won’t help if you don’t need it, but the truth is that lots of people need more than they get, and deficiency is seldom diagnosed until it is severe.
Almost everyone can benefit from getting 300 – 500 mg of magnesium a day, from foods and supplements. And it’s a must if you have symptoms of fatigue, mental confusion, irritability, heart disturbances, muscle cramps and tension, and a predisposition to stress and insomnia.
2. Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Exercise
This performance-enhancing supplement is for older people who want to make the most of every exercise session. Acetyl-L-carnitine helps athletes perform longer and recover faster. New research shows that it also helps older people facing declines in muscle strength and endurance, and in cognitive function.
Acetyl-L-carnitine plays a crucial role in energy production in the body. When your muscles have enough acetyl-L-carnitine, they can easily burn fat or protein for energy, not just glucose. This delays muscle fatigue, decreases the accumulation of lactic acid, a byproduct of glucose metabolism, and spares glycogen, the storage form of glucose. The heart is highly dependent on L-carnitine, as it obtains 70% of its energy from fat breakdown. Acetyl-L-carnitine also increases production of testosterone, which can boost muscle and bone mass, sex drive and mood — in both men and women.
Levels decline sharply after age 70. Even in very old people, acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown to increase muscle mass and improve exercise performance.
Make sure that you are taking the “acetyl” form, as opposed to its close relative, L-carnitine, to get the best results possible. Take 1,000 – 2,000 mg a day.
3. CoQ10 and Exercise
CoQ10 is a must if you take a statin drug for high cholesterol, since these cholesterol-lowering drugs deplete it. Supplemental CoQ10 is also appropriate if you are recovering from a heart attack, or have cardiovascular disease or any kind of cardiomyopathy or mitochondrial dysfunction. It is also helpful for other conditions in which levels are low, including congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, gum disease and AIDS. Just plain aging also depletes CoQ10 levels, and supplemental doses can preserve energy production and prevent the build-up of lactic acid which causes delayed muscle soreness.
Doses of 100 – 200 mg a day are adequate for most people, but people with mitochondrial dysfunction or heart failure may need several grams a day to see improvement.
4. B Vitamins and Exercise
Deficiency of any one of the 8 Bs can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, and, in some cases, irritability and depression or loss of feeling in the feet or hands. All are essential for the metabolic processes that sustain life, and several are directly involved in energy production.
These vitamins are essential for the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose, which provides us with energy, and for many other functions throughout the body, especially in nerves. Quite a few medications — and alcohol — can deplete B vitamins. So can malabsorption and gastrointestinal surgery, including gastric bypass surgery for weight loss.
A supplement that provides all of the Bs is your best assurance of getting what you need for proper energy metabolism and brain function. Older people should make sure they’re getting at least 500 mcg of vitamin B12 and 800 mcg of folic acid.
5. Fish Oil and Exercise
An omega-3-rich fish oil supplement can help improve your mood and make antidepressants work better, so it’s great if a dark mood is keeping you down. Plus, fish oil may help to decrease body fat stores and improve fat metabolism, helping you burn fat better. Other plusses: heart protection, improved glucose control, and lower triglycerides. If you’re exercising to keep your heart strong, lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, or to improve your mood, fish oil will help!
Take 1,000 – 3,000 mg a day of molecularly distilled fish oil, the purest, safest kind. Krill oil is also a good choice.
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Exercise is important for good health. Nutritional supplements can support your exercise program, especially if you’ve been run down or ill.
Share the knowledge!
Article updated on: December 28th, 2010