Common Supplements for Active Individuals

Some Common Supplements: Part 1

Sportspersons and physically active individuals use the supplements for various reasons or the other. In this article, we will be reviewing the effects of some commonly used nutritional supplements. In each part, we will discuss three supplements. For the present purpose, we will be discussing the following supplements. (Adapted from BJSM Reviews)

  1. BCAA- Branched Chain Amino acids.
  2. Arginine
  3. L-Carnitine.


Amino acids are very important for our body and are classified as EAA (Essential Amino Acids) & NEAA (Non-Essential Amino Acids).

Essential Amino Acids are needed to be included in the diet as they are not normally synthesized in our body. Examples included are Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, Histidine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine and Tryptophan.

Nonessential Amino Acids are synthesized in our body and examples included are Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic Acid, Cysteine, Glutamate, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline, Serine, Tyrosine. Some EAA notably arginine and glutamine are now regarded as conditionally essential meaning that during times of high utilization, they may require repletion via the diet.

The three branched-chain amino acids (BCAA: Leucine, isoleucine, and valine) cannot be synthesized by our body as mentioned above and must, therefore, be provided in the diet. Food sources containing BCAA are dietary proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, egg, milk, and cheese, which contain 15-20g of BCAA per 100g of protein. The BCAA is mainly metabolized in the skeletal muscle and has an anabolic effect in the muscle. Increasing the plasma level of BCAA during exercise may reduce the transport of Tryptophan into the brain and the synthesis of 5-HT (5- hydroxytryptamine). 5-HT has been suggested to be involved in the central fatigue mechanism and thus BCAA supplementation during sustained physical activity has exerted positive effects on cognitive performance and perceived exertion. The amount of BCAA recommended is 0.03-0.05g/kg body weight per hour or 2-4g per hour ingested repeatedly during exercise and recovery, preferably taken as a drink.


Arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid. It is found in a wide variety of protein rich foods, including both animal and plant resources. Supplementation with arginine can enhance the response to training and can aid in recovery from severe training sessions. Its supplementation increases blood flow due to nitric oxide (arginine is a precursor for the production of messenger molecule nitric oxide an important vasodilator). The ability of arginine to stimulate creatine synthesis and growth hormone secretion could enhance muscle gain from resistance training.


Ninety-five percent of the body’s carnitine store exists within the skeletal muscle where it plays a central role in fat and carbohydrate oxidation, particularly during exercise. The main food source of carnitine is meat. The recommended upper limit of L-carnitine supplementation is 2g per day. Research has been directed towards supplementing dietary L-carnitine to improve exercise performance. It has been suggested that insulin mediates an increase in muscle carnitine content and may have an impact on muscle fuel metabolism and exercise performance.

Dr. Sudeep Satpathy,
Sports Science Advisor - Fast&Up

Dr. Sudeep

-Expert and Writer