Forget Supplements: Try These Fitness-Boosting Alternatives to Creatine, BCAAs and More
Whether you just want to reinvigorate your fitness game with some new tactics, or you’re tired of spending money on expensive pills or powders, try the following tricks today. They can help you experience some of the same benefits that popular health supplements promise, but through natural foods and simple lifestyle changes!
- Protein Supplements
Athletes often buy into the marketing hype of protein powders offering "fast digestibility" or "rapid absorption." To test the theory, researchers compared athletes who ate six small protein-rich meals compared to someone who ate your standard three meals a day supplemented with three protein shakes.
The verdict? Men and women who skipped the protein shakes and instead ate protein-rich snacks or meals saw the same improvements in muscle strength and growth.
One reason many people are drawn to protein shakes is due to convenience. When you’re in a rush, it’s tempting to just grab a scoop of protein powder or a protein bar. Yet in a review of Bodybuilding.com’s top-selling protein powders, most supplements offer 20-25 grams of protein in a scoop.
This same amount of protein can easily be had by grabbing a handful of some convenient, easy-to-eat-on-the-go snacks:
- Toss 2-3 hard-boiled eggs into your diet and you net 20 grams of protein.
- A couple handful of almonds nets you 20+ grams of protein.
- Cottage cheese. Eaten alone or added to salads, cereal, etc., a cup gets you 27 grams of protein.
- Non-fat Greek yogurt. A small 6-ounce to-go cup gets you 17 grams of protein.
- A single 154-gram can has a whopping 39 grams of protein.
Creatine improves muscle endurance. What many people don't realize is that foods like fresh fish, duck and wild game (e.g. venison or elk) are naturally high in creatine.
But creatine isn’t the only name in the endurance game. Drinking beet juice raises your body’s nitric oxide. This boost strengthens your muscle contractions, increases blood flow to your muscles and helps your lungs function more efficiently.
Combined, this created a notable improvement in both muscle performance and overall endurance. No wonder many athletes do a shot of beet juice before entering a competition!
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branched-chain amino acids help with protein synthesis and can give you energy during a workout. If they’re taking a BCAA supplement, the common dosage is 5 grams a day.
But here’s the thing: BCAAs are a natural component in protein, and eating a protein-rich diet (including the foods listed earlier in this article) can net you all the BCAAs you need. For example, a can of tuna has nearly 6 grams of BCAAs in it, and an egg has 1.3g of BCAAs.
Get enough protein in your diet and you don’t need to worry about this supplement.
- Carbohydrate Powders
Taken before hitting the gym, carbohydrate powders and similar energizing supplements can give you both a sugar rush and a boost in stamina.
The humble banana may be giving this supplement a run for its money.
Researchers have found that a single banana offers the same energy boost as carb-rich sports drinks. In the study, they compared the difference between taking a sugar drink or eating a banana. Plus, bananas are also a natural source of antioxidants and electrolytes, which can improve your post-workout recovery time