Adenosine Triphosphate (also referred to as ATP) is what gives us the energy we need to think, run, and jump. The foods we eat are broken down and sent into the mitochondria – where they are used to create ATP.
ATP is often referred to as the ‘molecular unit of currency’. (I) This is because ATP is responsible for most of our bodily actions. Such as muscle contractions and nerve impulses. The more ATP we are able to create, the more energy we’ll have ‘on-call’ we need it the most, such as during sprints or power movements (squats, bench press, pull-ups etc).
There are 20 amino acids in total, some of which are referred to as essential (meaning we need to obtain them from our diet) and non-essential (meaning our body can create these in small amounts, where they aren’t required for optimal health).
Amino acids are also referred to as the building blocks of muscle. That’s because they help to build new muscle tissue, helping us to become bigger and stronger. L-leucine is a great example of this, which is the most widely used amino acid for muscle growth and repair.
Furthermore, some amino acids can also help the brain, providing nootropic benefits. These amino acids won’t necessarily help to build new muscle, but they will help you to think sharper and faster, such as l-theanine, which is found in tea and bananas to name a few.
When talking about supplements that can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), it’s in reference to the way the certain supplement (and foods) can be easily absorbed and quickly used in a short space of time.
The blood-brain barrier is what protects the mind from circulating pathogens, bacteria, and viruses that might affect our health. But the good thing about supplements and foods that can cross this ‘BBB’ is they often help to improve our health and performance, not damage it.
B vitamins are a group of vitamins that help to metabolise the foods you eat into energy. They can be obtained from food sources such as mushrooms and animal products such as beef steak. They can also help the body to increase the supply of nutrients into the muscles for energy, repair, and new growth. Furthermore, B vitamins have shown to provide nootropic like benefits – giving you mental energy to think and feel your best.
Body composition refers to the proportion of fat and fat-free mass on, and around your body. Healthy body composition is that of lower body fat with a higher lean muscle mass. Body composition can also be used to measure your overall health and fitness levels. Generally speaking, the lower you are in body fat, the healthier you will be.
To obtain your optimal body composition goals, you’ll need to have your height, weight, and fat measured; either using callipers or a DEXA body scan (also referred to as a Bone Density Scan). Having lower body fat percentages can make you faster, more flexible, and help you to perform better in sports. (II) Furthermore, it also lowers your risks of developing certain diseases associated with obesity, such as diabetes.
Bodybuilding is the act of changing your body appearance through weight lifting protocols; such as isolation and compound exercise. This is to achieve a symmetrical physique for a competition, or personal reasons. In general terms, there are several bodybuilding competitions; classic, the Olympia, and women’s – with some variations in-between.
Bodybuilders use supplements such as creatine for muscle performance, leucine for muscle growth and repair, and on occasion, caffeine for additional energy. Furthermore, a diet that is rich in protein, along with an adequate balance of carbohydrates and fats are required daily to see optimal results.
Carbohydrates are the body’s most preferred fuel source. These can be; pasta, bread, rice, and fruits to name a few. While the body can run off fats (ketones) when taking part in lower intensity activities, or longer duration sports, carbohydrates are the most optimal fuel source when higher energy requirements are needed.
Our cardiovascular system is part of a large circulatory system in the body which sends fluids around the body. The main parts of our cardiovascular system include the heart, which pumps oxygen and blood (containing nutrients) around our bodies. And secondly, our complex network of blood vessels and arteries that carry nutrients, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, among many other elements important for overall health.
Complete and Non-Complete Proteins
Complete proteins are generally aminal products that supply the body with the necessary amino acids it needs to repair and build new muscle, such as milk or chicken. Non-complete proteins, on the other hand, are plant-based proteins which contain a limited number of amino acids. Therefore, combining plant-based protein sources are needed to make a ‘complete protein’. (III)
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Delayed onset muscle soreness happens when your muscle have experienced contractions under strenuous weight – which cause micro-tears in your muscles. DOMS generally occurs anywhere between 24 and 48 hours after a workout. The harder the workout (with heavy resistance), the more DOMS you’ll experience.
As your training level increases, DOMS will occur less and less. However, by changing your lifting tempo and style, you’ll be able to elicit a similar response in muscle growth using a similar weight. The type of training may include German volume training, static holds, drop sets, or even ‘reps to failure’.
You can reduce DOMS by eating a diet higher in protein and micronutrients, which help to repair the body. L-leucine, for example, has been shown to help rebuild torn muscle fibres. Furthermore, eating cherries for several days surrounding a training session will help to reduce muscle soreness even further.
Essential Amino Acids
Essential amino acids are those ‘building-blocks’ that are deemed necessary for optimal health and vitality which can only be obtained from our diet. There are 9 essential amino acids in total, these are; Phenylalanine, Valine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Methionine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Histidine.
Amico acids provide their own unique benefits. From muscle building, cognition improvements, and even the assistance in metabolising certain foods into energy, thus increasing performance and recovery.
Being fat adapted refers to the ability to obtain energy from fat stores in the body. One way to become fat-adapted is to carb load or carb cycle. This is where a reduction of carbohydrates are eaten for several days while continuing to train at a slightly reduced intensity. By doing this, you’ll give your body a chance to tap into the fat stores in your body. (IV)
Then, on the 3rd or 4th day, you’ll have a day of high carbohydrate feeding. This will fill your liver and muscles with the glycogen necessary to fuel more intense training, or for a competition the day after. This approach is widely used to help athletes become more efficient at burning energy during competitions, such as triathlons etc, where glucose isn’t always available.
Fats are essential for hormonal health, optimal brain function, and the reduced risk of illnesses while reducing inflammation. There are four types of fats; Saturated fats, Monounsaturated fats, Polyunsaturated fats, Trans fats. Per gram, fats make up 9 calories.
- Saturated fats are generally found in animal products such as beef, but they can also be found in coconut oil and raw butter to name a few.
- Monounsaturated fats are important for protecting heart health. These can be found in avocados, olives, and nuts.
- Polyunsaturated fats can be made up of omega 3s’ and 6s’. Omega 3s’ are flaxseeds and salmon to name a few – these can help to reduce inflammation. Omega 6s’ on the other hand, can be associated with optimal brain, hormone, and overall bodily health.
Fatigue is connected to a wide range of health concerns. Such as tiredness or sleepiness, headache, dizziness, sore or aching muscles, and the increase of oxidative stress, among others. This can be either acute or chronic fatigue.
Acute fatigue may be as a result of over-reaching in a training session, but this soon subsides. Chronic fatigue, on the other hand, is more serious. This may have been brought on from long periods of overtraining without adequate nutrition or recovery.
Growth hormone, or HGH as it’s referred to, is released from the pituitary gland and increases the growth of organs and muscles on the body. It can also help to control weight, as it regulates fat usage to be used as an energy source while increasing lean muscle mass.
Ketone bodies are three water-soluble molecules that are produced by the liver from fatty acids when carbohydrates aren’t available (such as endurance events). They supply the body and mind with a source of energy.
Loading / Cycling Phase
Loading or cycling phases can be referred to as… the use of sports supplements, either for a short period of time or ‘on-and-off’ as required to achieve a desired result.
Many sports supplements may not require loading or cycling phases, such as multivitamins or protein meal replacements. However, there may be instances where other supplements can be cycled or loaded. Such as the use of creatine, which may be used in conjunction with training patterns or seasonal training to increase strength and speed.
Macronutrients are made up of three elements, these are; proteins (4 calories per gram), carbohydrates (9 calories per gram) and fats (9 calories per gram). We need a balance of each macronutrient daily for optimal health and well-being.
Micronutrients are elements such as vitamins and minerals, which are equally important as macronutrients. These are what helps the body to restore itself. They fight off illnesses and increase blood flow, and brain functions to name a few. In short, they are necessary for the growth and development of life.
Achieving optimal mental performance can make the difference between acting in the right moment, in the right way to help you strike a winning goal. Or place a chess piece in the correct sequence to help you beat your competitor.
Mental performance can also help you to succeed in work and study, and in everyday life, where communication or the retention, and the delivery of information is paramount to your daily tasks.
To achieve improved mental performance; amino acids and nootropics can be used. These supplements have been shown to increase neuron activity, thus helping your mind to function at its best. L-theanine, for example, is well-researched as a brain supplement, along with creatine, which has also been highlighted as a supplement that’s beneficial for protecting the brain.
In a basic definition, metabolism is what occurs in the body when food is converted into energy with the use of oxygen. Such as; when you consume carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, they pass through your digestive system, then into your bloodstream and into parts of the body where they are synthesized with the help of the mitochondria.
Mitochondria are membrane-bound cell organelles (mitochondrion, singular) that generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell’s biochemical reactions. Chemical energy produced by the mitochondria is stored in a small molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Muscle Protein Synthesis MPS
Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is a term that’s used to reference the building of new muscle. It’s a mechanism in the body which signals for the release of amino acids and other food substrates that are required to heal and grow new muscles, once the body has been exposed to a training stimulus.
MPS can be accelerated with training and eating a diet high in amino acids; either from food sources or supplements. The process of MPS can be enhanced by eating protein-rich foods in your pre, intra, and post-workout meals to feed the muscles with essential amino acid a.k.a building blocks.
A nootropic can be classed as a natural substance, supplement, or food that will enhance your cognitive abilities. Such as improved memory, task reasoning, and the retention of new information. Generally speaking, nootropics increase your ability to think sharper and faster, thus improving your mental performance.
Popular nootropics are l-theanine, caffeine, creatine, and lion’s mane mushrooms, among others. There are other substances which are classed as nootropics, such as modafinil and methylphenidate. (V) However, these are synthetically made nootropics that are only prescribed by your doctor or other healthcare providers and should be approached with caution.
A neurotransmitter is a chemical in the brain which allows for brain signals to be sent from one area of the brain to another, or throughout your body; such as the type of signals needed to move your hand speed and general coordination, to name a few.
A diet that is abundant in whole food sources has been shown to improve brain functions and the working ability of neurotransmitters. Furthermore, you can also increase the functions of your neurotransmitters by using nootropic supplements.
Oxidative stress highlights the inability to reduce or repair damaged cells within the human body. It has been shown to stimulate tumour growth, the common cold, and generally, it can lower the body’s immune system. This can be brought on by emotional and physical stress. Therefore, it’s paramount that stress is managed efficiently with a well-balanced lifestyle and diet/supplement regimen to reduce external stressors.
The human body is made up of about 2/3 oxygen, where it’s absorbed in the bloodstream from the lungs. It’s carried throughout the body to help you perform exercise and your daily activities with ease.
The more efficient the oxygen utilisation is within your body, the more power you can generate. And the longer you’ll be able to exercise without fatigue. This can be achieved by exercising regularly, thus increasing your cardiovascular systems’ health.
Furthermore, you can also increase oxygen utilisation with iron. More specifically, the haemoglobin within your blood. It’s the role of haemoglobin to take oxygen from your lungs to transport it around your body and into your working muscles.
Performance Enhancing Supplement
A performance-enhancing supplement can be classed as a supplement which improves physical and mental performance. It’s something that can reduce recovery time (both during and after exercise) and also, something that can improve strength and endurance.
Generally speaking, there are two types of performance-enhancing supplements. Those being safe and natural (approved by the FDA) and those which are synthetically made, such as androgenic steroids (often classed as illegal substances).
A placebo is generally a substance that has no therapeutic effect. This is used as a control substance in testing new drugs or supplements. When referencing studies done on the effects of using a supplement to test its safety and efficacy, a ‘placebo’ group or ‘supplement’ is often used to compare the results.
A precursor (in nutrition terms) is a substance that comes before something else. It can also be turned into, or evolve into another state. Such as the amino acid leucine, which can be changed into ketones to become another type of fuel sources for the mind for example, when glucose isn’t available.
Proteins are referred to as the building blocks of the body, more specifically, your muscles. Amino acids make up proteins; there are 20 amino acids in total which can be obtained from animal, non-animal sources, and supplements such as leucine.
Generally speaking, in supplement form, you will find a variety of protein supplements available from power to tablets. Firstly, BCAAs’ (branch chain amino acids) which are the main building blocks of protein. Then, there’s pea, rice, or dairy whey protein, among others.
As a meat-eater, you will obtain enough protein from eating one single animal source, such as milk or beef-steak, as these are classed as ‘complete proteins’. However, a vegan, or a vegetarian, on the other hand, will need to mix and match their plant-based proteins to create the same effect.
Recovery is a term used to describe how long it takes to recover from a certain exercise, movement, or training session. Times of recovery will vary greatly depending on the individuals’ overall fitness and strength. This will also depend on which type of exposure to training stimulus was experienced.
Your recovery can be enhanced with proper nutrition and rest. Protein is a major factor where recovery is concerned. Along with adequate amounts of fats and carbohydrates, and with micronutrients, which further aid in the recovery of our immune and central nervous system.
Resistance Training / Strength Training
Resistance (and strength training) is the process of using weights or bodyweight in order to grow new muscle fibres. This is done to become stronger and more powerful. Failing to pay adequate attention to strength training may result in a poorer sports performance overall, no matter the type of athlete.
Increasing the foundation of strength in an athlete can result in greater performance results. Therefore, even if you are a runner, basketball player, or swimmer. Taking some time to build a foundation of strength using resistance can increase your sports performance.
The respiratory system is referred to the organs which absorbed, and carry oxygen around our bodies. It’s also responsible for removing carbon dioxide while transporting nutrients around the body in the bloodstream.
Efficient respiratory systems can make or break a winning performance. Without adequate oxygen to supply your brain and muscles with O2 and nutrients, then, your performance will be lacking.
Ways to Improve your respiratory system is by reducing the pollution of the air you breath (if possible), such as smoking, and also, increasing your lungs capacity to take in oxygen. Supplements such as caffeine, and beta-alanine, for example, have been shown to increase blood flow. Furthermore, the vegetable beetroot can also increase blood flow and oxygen supply into the muscles.
Sports performance is a reference to your ability to perform a certain exercise, or sporting event using measurements in time or weight moved, for example. The higher your level of sports performance, the fitter you will be as a whole.
To increase your sports performance; training, diet, sleep, and the use of supplements can be used to help increase your ability to perform your chosen sport. Thus helping you to become stronger, faster, and more agile.
Weight loss is a term used to signify the process of bodyweight being lost. This can be overall bodyweight, or fat mass (preferable). The reason we should look to lose fat mass instead of overall weight is that muscle holds strength, and strength equals speed and power. Therefore, the less fat you have on your body (coupled with a retention of lean muscle mass) will result in a greater sporting performance.
(I)“Adenosine Triphosphate.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Mar. 2019. (source)
(II)“Nootropic.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Mar. 2019. (source)
(III)“Protein Combining.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Apr. 2019. (source)
(IV)Tanda, Giovanni, and Beat Knechtle. “Marathon Performance in Relation to Body Fat Percentage and Training Indices in Recreational Male Runners.” Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, Dove Medical Press, 28 May 2013. (source)
(V)Zinn, Caryn, et al. “Ketogenic Diet Benefits Body Composition and Well-Being but Not Performance in a Pilot Case Study of New Zealand Endurance Athletes.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 12 July 2017. (source)