These favorite fitness boosters have some surprising benefits that go far outside their role as workout helpers
By Carey Rossi
Some of the most popular workout supplements do more than just advance your fitness and reshape your physique—they can also improve your health. Here’s how to maximize their benefits for your body and mind.
For your workout Earning its performance cred, creatine increases lean muscle mass, strength, and power, and provides energy to your muscles, helping you blast through the toughest Tabata intervals by increasing your anaerobic threshold. As for all the talk about fluid retention, ignore it: Research shows that effect holds true mostly in men, not in women.
For your health Creatine is the only supplement that started out as a sports performance aid, then migrated into medical benefits, such as helping to improve muscle strength among patients with arthritis. For healthy individuals, it can help you recover from injuries by allowing you to maintain muscle strength and size. One British study found supplementing with creatine also boosts both working memory and intelligence.
For your workout Glutamine can enhance exercise performance and muscle growth. It also helps recovery by reducing soreness, improving muscle-tissue repair, and stimulating protein and glycogen synthesis (the latter ensures that your muscles have energy to make it through the next day’s workout).
For your health Glutamine’s recovery prowess also helps to boost your immune system so you can better stave off infections like the common cold. That’s especially important if you work out hard four to five times a week, which may hamper immune function.
Green Tea Extract
For your workout Chances are if you’re taking a fat burner, you’re already consuming green tea extract. It can help the body tap into fat stores for energy during exercise and may help you go longer, boosting endurance by up to 24%, according to a report in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology. In addition, green tea extract’s high levels of antioxidants, including EGCG, protect against the oxidative stress that strength training can put on the body.
For your health As a powerful antioxidant, green tea has been shown to help minimize the risk of certain cancers. The amino acid L-theanine in green tea extract may also help improve attention for up to three hours after consumption.
Whey Protein Powder
For your workout You’re already likely downing a whey protein shake shortly after your regular workout. Keep it up: Research shows that consuming up to 20 grams of protein from whey promotes muscle growth and strength gains as well as improves your rate of recovery.
For your health According to recent research published in the journal Appetite, subjects ate approximately 18% less about two hours after drinking a whey protein drink than after having a carbohydrate-rich version. And it helps you get your Zen on: According to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who consume whey protein seem to be better at physically handling stress. Researchers speculate that the dairy-derived protein helps maintain serotonin levels, keeping you more even-keeled.