By Tiyani Rikhotso
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 5 of VARSITY News.
From whey protein and BCAA’s (branched-chain amino acid) to creatine and fat burners, there are plenty of powders, pills and drinks on the market that promise enhanced athletic performance and help build muscle. However, studies have shown that many of these pre and post-workout supplements provide no added benefits and in some cases are filled with harmful ingredients.
Creatine has been linked to kidney and liver damage and weight gain. Fat burners have been linked to heart problems and a higher risk of stroke. In addition, many of these supplements and stimulants have lots of caffeine in them which can cause anxiety, restlessness and an irregular heartbeat.
Luckily, there are many alternatives that one can turn to for essential nutrients, sources of amino acids or healthy sugars and fats, in supporting your workout regime and achieving your fitness goals. These come without any added health risks and are easy, affordable options to add into your diet.
Coconut water: This drink is high in electrolytes as well as potassium and magnesium. It is best as a post-workout drink in order to rehydrate your body and replenish the electrolytes it loses as you sweat.
Green smoothie: This is a more nutrient dense alternative to packaged protein shakes that will keep you satiated and support your body with whole food sources of protein. Start with a base of greens, add your fruit (frozen bananas and berries work best) and either water or your preferred choice of milk. Opt for chia seeds, hemp seeds, Greek yoghurt, pea or collagen protein powders as your added choice of protein. You should also include a healthy fat such as avocado, coconut oil or a nut butter to finish off your smoothie.
Whole foods:In the end, a nutritious and whole foods diet that gives you a balance of healthy carbs, fats and protein, is foundational if you are working towards losing weight or building muscle. This will help keep you satiated, give you the energy you need for the gym and assist your body in repairing itself after your workouts.
Specific foods to include are:
- Bananas: These are high in natural sugars that provide an energy boost and give your body the potassium it needs to prevent muscle fatigue. As they are light on your tummy, bananas are a convenient pre-workout snack.
- Oats: A great complex carb that gives you a sustained energy release throughout the day. You can top this with fruits, nuts and peanut butter for added fat and protein. If you are planning on working out later on in the day, this is a great breakfast option.
- Eggs: A quick and simple breakfast option that offers your body high quality protein and essential nutrients such as vitamin D, iron and B12. These nutrients support the brain, helping you keep focused during your workouts. The protein and iron will help support your muscle recovery.