Updated: Mar 10, 2020
As a Registered Dietitian I would only be recommending a handful of supplements to any of my clients and athletes. Many supplements promise results that are attractive and sound as if they'll for sure take you to the next level. The truth is that many are likely over priced, ineffective, and possibly unsafe. It should be accepted that most supplements are limited in effectiveness by the foundation on which an individual decides to build their nutrition and eating habits. If an athlete is not consuming sufficient calories or adequate protein or focusing on higher iron foods when their body and sport require it or implementing pre/post workout nutrition strategies - supplements will be limited in their effect. As the pyramid of nutrition priorities below shows, supplements are to only provide additional benefit once the foundational elements of nutrition are covered.
All supplements should have a third party testing seal:
NSF Certified for Sport https://www.nsfsport.com products do not contain any of approximately 270+ substances banned by major athletic organizations.The contents of the supplement actually match what is printed on the label.There are no unsafe levels of contaminants in the tested products.The product is manufactured at a facility that is GMP registered and audited twice annually for quality and safety by NSF International.
Informed Choice https://www.informed-choice.org recognized international manufacturing standards and limits the likelyhood of taking unsafe and banned substances.
Few supplement companies hold themselves to strict standards of safety and efficacy, like Thorne https://www.thorne.com who many in the industry believe to be the unquestioned leader in quality and innovation in the sports nutrition supplement industry.
Once you've ruled out that nutrition through whole foods and lifestyle can't support your complete needs (ie protein needs, omega 3, vitamin D, etc) or discussed with your doctor that a medical condition requires supplementation (ie malabsorption) there may be options that can support health and athletic performance.
Multivitamin (general health): may support coverage of dietary and lifestyle habits that lack essential nutrients. According to Physicians Healthy Study II, may reduce risk of cancer and cataracts (every athlete's needs vary, depending on blood work, medical history, and dietary deficiencies - multivitamins may be more or less effective and necessary)
Vit D3 (general health/sports nutrition): may reduce fat mass and increase lean mass; supports immune health, bone health, and may reduce inflammation (>1000 IU daily)
Omega 3 fish oil (general health/sports nutrition): may reduce inflammation, muscle soreness, body composition, exercise-induced asthma, joint soreness, and enhance brain health (3 g daily)
Protein whey/casein/plant based (general health/sports nutrition): muscle maintenance and repair (above 0.55 g/# for general population; 0.8-1.1 g/# for active and resistance based activities)
Creatine (general health/sports nutrition): may increase lean mass, strength, sprint performance, anaerobic power (3-5 g daily)
Beta-alanine (sports nutrition): may buffer muscle acid by increasing muscle carnosine levels, enhancing muscular endurance. Best for training or events lasting 60-240 seconds (2-5 g daily)
HMB: leucine metabolite shown to provide anabolic and anti-catabolic properties on lean body mass (3 g daily)
Nitric Oxide Booster/Beet Root Powder (sports nutrition): increases nitrates and may improve aerobic endurance performance. (10 grams beet root powder = equivalent of 6 juiced beet/16 ounces juice)
Tart Cherry Juice (sports nutrition): recover faster thanks in part to less muscle damage, inflammation and soreness (6-8 ounces concentrate twice daily)
Caffeine (general population/sports nutrition): increases energy, stamina, alertness (200-400 mg 30-60 minutes before activity)
Ones on interest that I continue to expand my knowledge of:
CBD: athletes may find it useful for pain though more research is needed (more research needed)
Meriva: curcumin in this form may reduce muscle soreness and inflammation post workout (1 g twice daily)
Be aware of:
Fat Burners, Proprietary blends, Cleansing supplement, Anabolic steroids, Supplements sounds too good to be true
***For your healthy and safety - before supplementing your current activity and lifestyle with any dietary supplement it should be discussed with a Registered Sports Dietitian, RD, CSSD (Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetic) and your primary care physician***