20 Best Supplements for Athletes: Buyer’s Guide

20 Best Supplements for Athletes: Buyer’s Guide

Supplements are a means to give your body additional nutrients and vitamins that it cannot receive from food and is unable to naturally produce. Supplements are capable of boosting your body to help build muscle, lose weight, aid in recovery, and even improve your exercise performance. You can find an effective supplement for just about any purpose.

The best way to compare supplements is to check the ingredients, side effects, and what impact they should have on your body. You can then narrow the field and decide what options are right for you. The top three best supplements for athletes are a good starting point which includes protein powder, vitamin D, and coffee.

  1. Protein Powder (Best Overall)
  2. Vitamin D (Best for Bone Health)
  3. Coffee (Best for Endurance)

Read on to find out more about these top three supplements. You’ll also learn about other supplements athletes should take that will help your own workouts impact your health most.

1. Coffee

Coffee isn’t just a method to wake your body up in the morning, it’s also an effective supplement for athletes. The caffeine increases your endurance, and you’ll feel resistance to fatigue, so the workout won’t feel as taxing.

Some side effects of drinking coffee before exercising include heart palpitations and shaky hands. You can lower your intake to counterbalance these effects.

Your bloodstream quickly absorbs caffeine, and the levels stay high for up to four hours, so you’ll have time for a quality workout. Consuming 100 to 200 mg of caffeine will greatly improve your endurance, which is equal to drinking two cups of coffee.

Three of the best coffee brands are Black Ink Coffee Company, EnerHealth NutriCafe Performance Coffee, and Strava Craft Coffee.

You can find regular coffee at the grocery store at an affordable price, but it is always recommended to shop from a trusted roaster online. The brands listed above are a bit more, but it’s worth it for the quality that you receive and any additional vitamins and nutrients found within.

2. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that increases muscle strength and can improve recovery time after workouts. These herbs decrease the stress your body feels when you’re working out. You’re able to take in more oxygen, so you don’t feel depleted while exercising. It also increases your testosterone levels over time.

Since ashwagandha is an herb, there aren’t the same risks of side effects as there are with steroids or other speed supplements, so it’s safe to try. Take at least 300mg of ashwagandha twice a day for optimal benefits. After 8 to 12 weeks, you’ll notice an increase in your oxygen intake and overall physical health.

Three quality ashwagandha brands include NatureWise, Physician’s Choice, and Transparent Labs. Prices range from $20 to $30 for a two-month supply of tablets.

3. Magnesium

Every cell in the body uses magnesium, and about 30% of it is in your muscles. It helps produce energy and deliver strength to your muscles by decreasing lactate levels. Also, be sure to check with your doctor before taking a magnesium supplement. Too much magnesium can cause diarrhea.

Take up to 250 mg of magnesium a day. You can get it naturally from foods like sunflower seeds, chickpeas, oats, and cashews, or take a supplement.

The top three brands for magnesium tablets include Life Extension, Athletic Greens, and BiOptimizers. The price varies according to how many capsules are in the jar, ranging from under $10 to $30.

4. Creatine

Studies have found that creatine produces adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is a basic form of energy all cells use. When you exercise, you deplete your body’s ATP quickly. Taking creatine gives you more of an ATP reserve to draw on. The supplement also increases muscle building.

Creatine is a supplement safe for long-term use, so you don’t have to worry about side effects. The only potential side effect that is currently being researched is whether or not creatine can lead to hair loss.

To get the most out of creatine, take 20g per day for seven days, then take maintenance doses of up to 5g per day for several days. Some of the best brands for creatine include 1st Phorm, Legion Athletics, and Bare Performance Nutrition. You’ll pay about $30 for 30 to 50 servings of creatine.

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D strengthens bones by regulating your body’s calcium and is one of the best vitamins for athletes. When athletes take vitamin D supplements, they also build stronger muscles. This benefit makes it less likely that they’ll get injured while working out or playing.

The side effects aren’t too severe as it’s a natural supplement. In rare cases, it leads to hypercalcemia, a toxic condition of your body having too much calcium in the blood. Taking too much won’t increase the benefits but rather makes your bones more likely to fracture with a fall.

You can consume more vitamin D naturally by eating more fish, eggs, and vitamin D milk. Spending time in the sun also increases your vitamin D levels. If you’re taking a supplement, you should take 600 to 800 international units a day.

Three of the best vitamin D brands are Athletic Greens, mindbodygreen, and Peak Performance. While there are cheaper alternatives, sticking with a trusted manufacturer is recommended.

You can find vitamin D capsules at drugstores and health stores at an affordable price, but purchasing them online with a monthly subscription is best. Tablets specifically geared towards athletes will cost more because they have additional nutrients.

6. Iron

Many people experience iron deficiency, so taking a supplement boosts iron levels and supplies blood and oxygen to the muscles and organs. Athletes use up iron reserves because the body loses it through sweat, menstruation, and excrement.

A side effect of having too much iron in your system is that you’re at risk for inflammation, have higher cholesterol, and might experience heart complications.

You can get more iron by eating red meat, fish, and citrus fruits. Iron supplements should cap out at 15mg daily for women and 10mg daily for men. Athletes can handle a bit more, but it’s best to check with your doctor for a specific dosage.

Three of the best iron supplement brands include Life Extension, Nature Made, and Three Arrows Nutra. Prices for iron supplements range from under $10 for drugstore options to $30 for athlete-specific brands.

7. Protein Powder

One of the top supplements for athletes is protein powder. There are many types of protein powder on the market, such as whey, casein, egg, pea, hemp, mixed plant, and more. Taking protein powder before you workout can maximize your muscle gain. Athletes often use whey protein products to prepare for competition because they get fast results.

Be sure to research your protein powder carefully before long-term use, as some contain heavy metals. This is one reason it is best to choose protein from an NSF-certified brand. Otherwise, the side effects are minor, such as thirst, nausea, bloating, or headaches.

You consume protein powder by mixing it with water or milk. Some of the best performance-enhancing supplements come premixed as a drink you can take to the gym. One or two scoops of protein powder mixed in liquid daily are enough to give you major benefits.

There are many top sports nutrition products that will get the job done: Three of the best protein powder brands are BioSteel, Optimum Nutrition, and Garden of Life. The price for protein powder varies depending on the size and type you buy. On average, you’ll spend $30 to $60 for a tub of protein powder that can last a month.

8. Ginseng

Ginseng is an herb that boosts energy levels, but studies don’t guarantee these results. However, it’s the second-most popular supplement after creatine, so it might be worth trying to see how it works for you.

The side effects of ginseng are mild, such as headaches, nausea, and insomnia. It interacts with blood thinners, anti-inflammatories, and other herbal medications, so check with your doctor before taking it.

Start with a low dose of ginseng to see how it impacts your workout. You can take up to 400mg per day. Play around with the dosing to see what feels right for you.

Three of the best ginseng brands include Nature’s Bounty, Supplement First, and Life Extension. Ginseng found at the drugstore can cost about $10. Supplements from health stores include additional nutrients and start at $20.

9. Gelatin

Gelatin is an unlikely supplement, but it helps build strong bones, tendons, and cartilage. It’s a cooked form of collagen, which is a major protein in connective tissue. So consuming gelatin helps boost your physical health.

Researchers are still studying the effectiveness of this claim, but there are no negative side effects to eating gelatin. It’s recommended to eat gelatin after you exercise. You can eat 15g or mix 1.5 tablespoons of gelatin with liquid to drink.

The top brands of gelatin for athletes include Maurten, Further Food, and Vital Proteins. Buying sports-related gelatin is more expensive than a Jello box because it contains additional nutrients. You can spend up to $50 for 12 servings.

10. Beetroot

Beetroot raises nitric oxide levels and improves blood flow and oxygen intake, making it one of the best performance-enhancing supplements. When athletes drink beetroot, they boost their physical performance and increase cardiovascular health.

The side effects of beetroot are minor unless you’re allergic. It can increase your risk for kidney stones, so consult your doctor before ingesting it.

You can eat one cup of beets daily or drink one cup of juice. If you’re taking a supplement, you can have two to four capsules a day. Athletes often take twice as much before their workouts.

The best beetroot supplement brands include UMZU, Humann, and Nature’s Pure Blend. Beetroot supplements are about $30 for a one-month supply.

11. Glutamine

Glutamine is an amino acid stored in muscles to decrease fatigue, making it a great sports performance supplement. When your body feels stress, it’s released into your bloodstream to prevent muscle damage. It’s ideal for taking before long-distance events or intense strength training.

Side effects include nausea, swelling in your hands and feet, headaches, and dry mouth, but they’re not common. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop taking the supplement and see your doctor.

You can take up to 45g of glutamine per day. Studies have shown taking this much for up to six weeks caused no long-term harm.

Three of the best glutamine brands are Revive MD Supplements, Transparent Labs, and Bare Performance Nutrition. Prices range from $20 to $60 depending on the size of the tub and what additional nutrients are in the supplement.

12. Arginine

Arginine is an amino acid that your body converts to nitric oxide. It improves your blood flow and physical endurance. Athletes taking arginine can increase their power output without feeling exhausted too quickly.

Some side effects include diarrhea and bloating. Athletes with asthma can experience breathing problems.

Eating red meat, fish, and dairy can naturally increase arginine intake. If you’re taking a supplement, you shouldn’t take more than 30g per day.

The best arginine brands are Life Extension, NOW, and One Protein. Prices range from under $10 for drugstore options to $30 for those with additional nutrients.

13. Citrulline

Citrulline is an amino acid that increases your blood flow. It improves your athletic performance by sending blood to your muscles, prolonging endurance, and reducing fatigue.

There are no specific side effects of citrulline. However, it might interact with other drugs you’re taking, so check with your doctor.

You can take up to 1000mg of citrulline three times a day. It’s naturally present in foods like nuts and watermelon.

The best brands of citrulline are Transparent Labs, BRL Sports, and Kaged. Cost ranges from $15 to $60 depending on the supplement’s other nutrients and tub size.

14. Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris is an herb that improves circulation, benefiting your muscles and heart. It also increases testosterone levels and helps increase your muscle mass. 

Side effects of this athletic supplement include insomnia and nausea. It can also interact with other medications, so check with your doctor before ingesting it.

You can eat the Tribulus fruit to naturally get the benefits. If you’re taking a supplement, you shouldn’t take more than 1500mg a day.

Three brands with Tribulus Terrestris supplements for speed are Sculpt Nation, Life Extension, and UMZU. You’ll pay about $30 to $50 for 30 capsules.

15. Betaine

Betaine is a substance extracted from beets that prevent heart failure and rehydrate cells. As a result, you’ll have better circulation and fortified muscles when you exercise. It keeps you from getting dehydrated, so you have increased endurance.

Side effects are minor, including diarrhea and nausea. However, it can interact with heart medications, so talk to your doctor.

You should take 1.5g of betaine twice a day. It has positive impacts before and after workouts, so there’s no wrong time to take it.

Three top betaine brands are Nutricost, Musashi, and Vitacost. The average price for a tub of betaine that lasts a month is $16.

16. Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that increases endurance and decreases fatigue taken right before a workout. It prevents lactic acid buildup and eliminates muscle burn as you exercise.

There are virtually no side effects to beta-alanine. Some people have reported skin tingling, but you can lower your dose to eliminate it.

You can naturally consume beta-alanine in foods like poultry, beef, and soybeans. If you take a supplement, you can ingest 2 to 5g per day.

Three top brands of beta-alanine are 1st Phorm, Legion Athletics, and Klean Athlete. You can expect to pay $30 to $45 for a month’s worth of tablets.

17. Branched-Chain Amino Acid

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) prevent muscle breakdown, so you get enhanced performance and better recovery from workouts. They can also decrease body fat while helping you build lean mass.

There are no side effects connected to BCAAs. However, BCAAs studies’ results vary, so ensure you’re informed before taking this supplement. There’s also no general suggestion for dosage, so check the label of the supplement you buy.

Some of the best brands are 1st Phorm, Life Extension, and Advanced Bionutritionals. You’ll pay $20 to $30 for 90 capsules.

18. Sport Probiotics

Sport probiotics improve your gut health. Even if you eat a healthy diet, they help your internal systems function smoothly. Some probiotics can help specific systems, like your respiratory tract or muscle mass.

There are no health-related side effects with probiotics. However, you might find that your stomach rumbles more, and flatulence is more frequent.

You only need one dose of probiotics per day, whether it’s a capsule or a serving of a probiotic drink.

Some sport probiotics brands include Athletic Greens, GoodBelly, and Sports Research. Depending on the specific brand and desired outcome, you’ll pay $20 to $30 for 30 capsules.

19. Quercetin

Quercetin is a phytochemical that increases endurance and aerobic capacity making it one of the best natural performance-enhancing supplements. It also boosts your immune system, so you stay healthier and have a quick post-workout recovery.

Side effects are minor, limited to headaches and nausea.

You can naturally consume quercetin in red onions, tomatoes, apples, and blueberries. If you take a supplement, you should take up to 1000mg per day. Consuming it along with vitamin C can increase its effectiveness.

The top quercetin brands include Life Extension, Nootropics, and Jarrow Formulas. You’ll pay about $20 for a month’s worth of capsules.

20. Omega-3s

Omega-3s are ideal for athletes because they improve muscle recovery and reduce inflammation. They increase blood flow and keep your arteries clear for improved circulation.

There aren’t many side effects to omega-3 besides a fishy taste, which might cause nausea.

You can consume omega-3s naturally in fish. If you take a supplement, you should get 90mg a day.

The best omega-3 brands are Bulletproof, Live Conscious, and mindbodygreen. A month’s worth of capsules costs $25 to $35.

What Is an Athlete Supplement?

A pro athlete supplement is something that increases physical performance. They might come as capsules, tablets, powder, liquid, or bars. All sports supplements use natural ingredients in a combination to help athletes improve in certain areas, like endurance, muscle building, or weight loss.

Why Take Athlete Supplements?

Athlete supplements can provide extra calories, vitamins, and nutrients for your body so it can endure exercise. They can also help build muscles and enhance your performance.

It’s important to remember that supplements are additional vitamins for athletes. You shouldn’t take supplements instead of eating healthy foods. Maintaining a balanced diet ensures your body gets enough protein, vitamins, and energy from real food. You can then get additional benefits from supplements.

What Are the Factors To Consider Before Taking Athlete Supplements?

If you’re already eating a healthy diet, you can assess how you feel before adding a supplement. You might feel depleted too soon after you start working out. A supplement for endurance will help counteract this feeling. Many athletes take supplements to build muscles quickly, so they reach peak shape before their season starts.

Always check with your doctor before taking supplements. They can run tests to check your levels and ensure you’re not going to take too much of a specific vitamin. Taking too much won’t increase your results but can damage your health.

Who Can Take Athlete Supplements?

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against anyone under 18 taking supplements. Beyond that, they’re safe for adults, as long as you follow a sports supplement guide, because they’re often natural substances. You can check with your doctor for deficiencies and find the right supplement to deliver what you need.

What Are the Effects of Athlete Supplements?

In general, athlete supplements help increase energy, boost performance, and build muscle. As with the supplements reviewed above, you can find specific supplements to help certain needs. They’re made to help fill in what your standard diet doesn’t provide. Be sure to check the pros and cons of sports supplements if you are still unsure.

What Supplement Helps Most With Athletes?

What supplements should athletes take? The most popular supplement is creatine. Countless studies back its effectiveness in building muscles and increasing power and speed. Creatine goes beyond physical health to also boost brain function, ensuring the athlete is in top form across the board, which is why it’s one of the top sports nutrition supplements.

Where To Buy Supplements for Athletes?

You can find most supplements at drugstores and health stores. Vitamins are especially easy to find, as is coffee. For more specialized supplements, you can order them online. You don’t need prescriptions for supplements because they’re mostly natural and safe for long-term use.

Are Supplements for Athletes Expensive?

No, most supplements for athletes aren’t expensive, but prices vary. Vitamins from the drugstore can cost less than $10 for a month’s supply. Supplements with additional nutrients for athletes will cost more, often ranging from $30 to $100 for a month’s worth.

Do Supplements for Athletes Work?

Yes, supplements for athletes work. The supplements on this list have studies backing their effectiveness. Some might claim to work, but studies will find they don’t work at all. However, everyone’s body is different. Research supplements before you add them to your diet. 

Athletic Insight

Athletic Insight Research

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

The Athletic Insight Research team consists of a dedicated team of researchers, Doctors, Registered Dieticians, nationally certified nutritionists and personal trainers. Our team members hold prestigious accolades within their discipline(s) of expertise, as well as nationally recognized certifications. These include; National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT), National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), International Sports Sciences Association Nutritionist Certification.