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There are tens of thousands of nutritional supplement products on the market, but not all of them enhance sports performance. Here are five supplements you probably never heard of that can help you be a better athlete.

If you are serious about athletic training, you probably already know about the benefits of vitamin D, greens drinks, fish oil, creatine, and the lowly multivitamin. You probably don't know about another group of supplements that are even more beneficial to athletic performance, extremely well-researched, and largely underutilized.

Curcumin for Inflammation Control

Curumin is orange-yellow antioxidant extracted from turmeric root. Curcumin has gained something of a reputation of a reputation as a cure-all. It's so useful, and so well researched (over 8200 studies to date) that I have written entire books about curcumin in cancer care and curcumim for brain health.
The benefits of curcumin also extend to athletic performance. Curcumin's traditional use (in the form of turmeric i Ayurvedic herbal formulas) was as an anti-inflammatory. For people who are in generally good condition and who do not have chronic joint or back pain, curcumin takes the edge off day to day aches and pains. One study found that taking a 400 mg (or larger) capsule of curcumin per day offered the same degree of pain relief as taking 2,000 mg of acetaminophen (Tylenol). 
For aging athletes, taking curcumin can take the edge off osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) pain. A clinical research experiment found that osteoarthritis sufferers who took 400 mg of curcumim per day reported about half the intensity of pain as arthritis sufferers who did not. A study of osteoarthritis patients in Italy found that those who took glucosamine and curcumin healed faster and suffered fewer setbacks than those who took the more common combination of glucosamine and chondroitin, with results from curcumin and glucosamine together measurable in just 30 days.
Most of the studies of curcumin for joint and back pain use a specific brand of curcumin called Meriva. Other brands of curcumin will also work, but different formulations (and different brand-name products) have different  optimal applications.

Spirulina's Surprising Athletic Application

Spirulina is a mixture of different species of blue-green algae. At one time, these algae were collected in the wild. Nowadays, the best brands of spirulina (and all the brands you will find on product shelves or Internet stores in North America and the EU) are grown under sterile conditions in tanks indoors. Spirulina is a rare plant food that provides complete protein (all the amino acids needed by the human body), healthy fat, and nearly all the vitamins and essential minerals. However, spirulina does not just add a boost to good nutrition.
In one study, taking a spirulina supplement was found to increase muscle power 20 to 30 percent. The effect on training was greater in untrained than in athletically trained individuals; that is, spirulina is better for helping people who are out of shape get into shape than it is for helping people who are already in shape get stronger. Exactly why spirulina would do this is not known, but the effect, at least in one study, was very strong.
Over 1300 other studies have shown that spirulina lowers blood pressure, reduces fat storage in the liver, lowers triglycerides, and upregulates the immune system. Spirulina appears to inhibit NADPH oxidase, a pro-oxidation compound. This means that it counteracts the effects of free radicals, such as those that trigger inflammatory reactions. The only downside to using spirulina is that it has to be pure. Take 1 to 3 grams of spirulina products manufactured in North America or Europe in preference to other sources.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Belcaro G, Dugall M, Luzzi R, Ledda A, Pellegrini L, Cesarone MR, Hosoi M, Errichi M. Meriva®+Glucosamine versus Condroitin+Glucosamine in patients with knee osteoarthritis: an observational study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2014. 18(24):3959-63. PMID: 25555891
  • Braakhuis AJ, Hopkins WG. Impact of Dietary Antioxidants on Sport Performance: A Review. Sports Med. 2015 Jul
  • 45(7.:939-55. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0323-x. PMID: 25790792
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