Keep the Body Moving – Part III

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 provide nutritional support for remaining healthy and living a lifestyle characterized by regular physical activity. Too often people are unable to sustain a physically active lifestyle because they simply do not have enough energy to satisfy the physiological energy demands associated with being physically active on a routine basis.

Many 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 & 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 a mountain of data suggesting 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, 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 newsletter 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 foods. In that spirit, the April, 2008, issue of Healthful Hints 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.

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).

Fiber Supplement

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.

Protein Supplement

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

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.