Suggested Citation: Garko, M.G. (2012, April). Keep the body moving – Part III:
Dietary supplements to energize and maximize physical activity. Health and Wellness Monthly. Retrieved (insert month, day, year), from www.letstalknutrition.com.
Keep the Body Moving – Part III: Dietary Supplements
To Help Energize and Maximize Physical Activity
Michael Garko, Ph.D.
Host – Let’s Talk Nutrition
Taking dietary supplements provides nutritional support to stay healthy and live an active lifestyle characterized by regular physical activity. Too often people are unable to sustain such a lifestyle because they simply do not have enough energy to satisfy the physiologic and metabolic energy demands to be physically active on a regular basis.
There are those who believe that eating three meals a day is enough to provide sufficient energy to engage in regular physical activity and, consequently, taking dietary supplements is a waste of time and money. However, this perspective fails to take into account the (1) poor quality and extensive amount of energy-deficient foods in the human food chain derived from nutrient-depleting farming and food manufacturing methods, (2) energy-exhausting lifestyle factors (e.g., tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, a lack of physical activity/exercise and high levels of stress) and (3) intensity level, type and frequency of physical activity.
Furthermore, those favoring the three-meals-a-day model assume the meals are nutritionally balanced. There is an abundant amount of evidence showing that the majority of the population is not eating nutritionally balanced, wholesome meals as evidenced by the overweight-obesity epidemic plaguing society and the grim statistics associated with other chronic medical conditions such as, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, digestive-related disorders (e.g., gastroesophageal reflux diseases/GERD, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome/IBS, etc.), localized and systemic inflammation, among many others. They also ignore the growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that eating three large, high caloric-laden meals a day is not the best dietary approach to provide sustained energy to live a physically active lifestyle.
It is not being contended that dietary supplements should be used as meal replacements or substitutes for a healthy, nutrient- and energy-rich diet. After all, supplements are supplemental. They are best used and most effective when tailored to fit a person’s dietary requirements, level of physical activity and energy-related needs. In short, nutritional supplements need to be integrated into a person’s daily nutrition of whole foods and overall lifestyle.
Therefore, it is assumed throughout this article that any of the dietary supplements mentioned to energize and maximize physical activity should be taken to support and not substitute for a daily diet of nutritionally wholesome and, whenever possible and appropriate, organic foods. In that spirit, in the April 2012, issue of Health and Wellness Monthly provides a discussion of dietary supplements recognized in the literature to energize and maximize physical activity. It is not only important to have the necessary energy to be physically active but also to get the most out of or otherwise maximize physical activity in terms of the health benefits derived from keeping the body moving on a sustained basis.
The discussion for each of the recommended dietary supplements presented below is not intended to be comprehensive than it is to serve as a brief, general description of its potential benefit to energize and maximize physical activity. Furthermore, the list of dietary supplements presented below is not intended to be exhaustive. Rather, it is offered as a menu of choices from which readers can choose to develop their own basic dietary supplement protocol to energize and maximize their own, unique program of physical activity.
Multiple Vitamin and Mineral Supplement
Creating and maintaining an optimal nutritional status is among the first steps to meet the energy demands of a physically active lifestyle and maximize the health benefits associated with physical activity. This will assist in keeping the body healthy and allow it to assimilate fully the nutrients contained in the whole foods and dietary supplements consumed daily, while harvesting the energy found in the chemical bonds of those nutrients. If it is out of balance or otherwise unhealthy, then the body is required to divert its energy to healing and restoring homeostasis, causing a reduction in energy stores for regular physical activity.
Including a well-formulated multiple vitamin and mineral in one’s daily diet can play an important role in keeping a person’s nutritional status up to par and increasing energy levels. In the March, 2008, issue of Healthful Hints, it was recommended that a good multiple vitamin and mineral formula be used as the foundation of a basic supplement protocol and augmented with other dietary supplements such as a greens supplement, digestive-health supplements (i.e., probiotics, digestive enzymes & fiber supplement), an antioxidant formula, immune formula and Omega-3 fish oil. Such a protocol would go a long way in creating and sustaining an optimal nutritional status so as to meet the energy demands of engaging in regular physical activity and reap the full health benefits from living a physically active lifestyle (see Garko, 2008).
What was stated in Keeping the Body Moving – Part II about the relationship among fiber, energy and health merits repetition. That is, it is not just what a person eats but what a person digests and absorbs that affects overall health and energy levels. Many people who are physically active do not eat enough fiber rich foods to satisfy the minimum requirement of 35 grams of fiber a day. Therefore, using fiber supplements is a useful way to add more fiber to the diet, keep the digestive system healthy, and, thereby, enhance energy levels and support overall health.
Green Food Supplement
Most recently a lot of attention has been given to green food supplements and with good reason. Generally speaking, such supplements are rich in natural sources of micronutrients (i.e., vitamins & minerals) and macronutrients (i.e., protein, carbohydrate & fats/plant sterols) enzymes and other nutrients. The following are among some of the health benefits associated with green food supplements:
- Enhanced energy levels
- Fortified immune system
- Improved gastrointestinal health leading to better digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Improved cell integrity and metabolism
- Antioxidant protection for cells, tissues and organs through the scavenging of free radicals
- Cleansing and detoxifying the body of harmful environmental toxins
Each of the above mentioned health benefits which can be derived from green food supplements contribute to overall health and well being and the energizing and maximizing of physical activity.
In terms of energy, a green foods supplement would be an excellent source of carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose and stored in muscle and liver tissue as glycogen. Muscle glycogen is especially important in sustaining physical activity. As muscle glycogen stores are depleted with physical activity, fatigue can begin to be experienced. The depletion of muscle glycogen, especially during intense and extended physical activity, is a major cause of fatigue behind dehydration and the loss of electrolytes. Therefore, consuming an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates using a greens food supplement can be a useful strategy to energize a physically active lifestyle.
Although protein is not the body’s primary source of energy compared to carbohydrates and fats/lipids, a well-formulated powdered protein supplement can serve to provide energy and enhance physical activity. In addition to providing energy, protein helps to repair and build muscle, cartilage and bones. It also assists in the building of enzymes, hemoglobin, hormones and antibodies, creating a proper acid-alkaline balance and a proper fluid-salt balance. Including a protein supplement is foundational to a nutritional protocol to energize and maximize physical activity.
Individual Amino Acid Supplements
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which is constituted of a combination of 22 naturally occurring amino acids. Above and beyond taking a protein supplement, some may want to include individual amino acid supplements or combination formulas of amino acids in their dietary supplement protocol to support a physically active lifestyle. The following is a list of some amino acids recognized to energize and maximize physical activity:
Amino Acid(s) Purpose
L-leucine, L-isoleucine & L-valine Improve muscle energy, exercise endurance & strength
L-carnitine Enhances energy by transporting fat molecules to the mitochondria of the cells
L-arginine Growth hormone production & muscle building
L-ornithine & L-lysine Work synergistically with L-arginine
L-glutamine Regulation of protein synthesis, accelerates glycogen synthesis post workout, faster recuperation from physical activity
Creatine is nutrient formed from a combination of the amino acids, arginine, glycine and methionine. It is fundamental in providing the necessary energy for muscles to keep the body moving. Adenosine-triphosphate (ATP) is the body’s primary energy source to fuel muscle contraction. Unfortunately, there are only a few seconds worth of ATP at any given time to energize muscle tissue and create the ability for muscles to contract. Once it is used, ATP converts into adenosine diphosphate (ADP). Chemically speaking, creatine donates one of its phosphate molecules to ADP and, thereby, refuels the body with ATP. Fortunately, creatine is makes it way into the bloodstream virtually intact and when entering muscle cells it is converted into phosphate creatine (PC), which is in turn used in the metabolic production of ATP. Having sufficient creatine stores on board in the body is essential to sustain physical activity, especially when it is performed at high-intensity levels or for extended periods of time or both.
Ribose is a naturally occurring simple sugar derived from glucose and utilized at the cellular level. It is one of the crucial nutrients in ATP production. Ribose is also found in ribonucleic acid (RNA), important in protein synthesis. Because of these two metabolic functions, using a ribose supplement is an effective nutritional strategy to boost energy levels.
Coenzyme Q10/CoQ10 (ubiquinone) is a natural occurring substance in cells and can be obtained from food (e.g., oily fish, organ meats & whole grains). CoQ10 plays a significant role in transforming the chemical energy in food into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s primary energy source. It tends to be concentrated in tissues requiring large amount of energy, such as the heart. Because it is implicated with ATP, CoQ10 is an important nutrient to help fuel physical activity.
A poor nutritional status is one of the main barriers to living a lifestyle characterized by regular physical activity in all of its various forms. Too frequently people fail at sustaining a physically active lifestyle because they suffer from an energy deficiency. A diet constituted of energy-deficient foods, living an energy depleting and sedentary lifestyle and the energy demands of engaging in regular physical activity are some of the factors that undermine the effort to achieve an optimal nutritional status and sufficient energy levels to live a physically active lifestyle.
Taking dietary supplements (e.g., multiple vitamin & mineral, fiber supplement, green food supplement, protein supplement, certain individual amino acids, creatine, ribose & Co Q 10) can help overcome these obstacles and, thereby, energize and maximize physical activity, generally, and exercise, specifically. That being said, it is important to remember the principle of supplements being supplemental. Supplements are not meal replacements. Rather, they are nutrients which need to be incorporated into a person’s daily diet of whole foods and overall lifestyle.
There is another principle to keep in mind when it comes to dietary supplements. That is, given that each person has his/her own unique metabolic profile, nutritional needs and lifestyle, dietary supplements are most effective when they are tailored to meet a person’s daily dietary requirements, level of physical activity and energy-related needs.
In closing, a dietary supplement can do a great deal to help you energize and maximize a physically active lifestyle. They provide a host of health-related benefits so you can keep your body moving with energy and longevity.
Garko, M. (2008). Keep the body moving – Part II: Dietary and nutritional principles and practices to energize and maximize physical activity. Healthful Hints, March, 2008. www.letstalknutrition.com
Garko, M. (2006a). Improved health and better nutrition with dietary supplements. Healthful Hints, February, 2006. www.letstalknutrition.com
Garko, M. (2006b). Guidelines for taking dietary supplements. Healthful Hints, March, 2006. www.letstalknutrition.com
It is recommended that the mentioned supplements should be used in conjunction with the dietary strategies to enhance energy mentioned in March, 2008, issue of Healthful Hints. It is recommended further that readers refer to the February and March, 2006, issues of Healthful Hints to learn more about dietary supplements, why they are necessary and recommendations on how to use them safely and effectively (see Garko, 2006a; Garko, 2006b).
 It is recommended that the reader consult with a physician or other health care practitioner who is expert in nutrition and the use of dietary supplements before taking any of the mentioned dietary supplements in this month’s newsletter, especially if suffering from a medical condition.
 The reader can refer to the March, 2008, issue of Healthful Hints for a fuller discussion on how the various components of the recommended basic supplement protocol can help to energize and maximize physical activity.