Being healthy is related to our physical, mental and social state. Every athlete focuses on performing at his best during training and tournaments while putting the body under metal, emotional and physical stress. Our performance depends on our ability to cope with the requirement of the workout and how efficiently we can recover after each effort. The effort can be mental, emotional and physical, which is a reason to have a comprehensive approach toward recovery.
Today many athletes try to find the answer for better performance through supplementation. And this is what this post is going to cover. Here I will provide my point of view, supported by research, about supplements that can help you to stay healthy, enhance your recovery and improve your kata or kumite performance.
I am not a medical practitioner nor trying to play one. Before you decide to take any of the supplements mentioned in this post, please contact or consult with your doctor.
Before we even start talking about something that should be complementary to your diet, it is essential to make sure that you get the nutrition that you need. It’s important to understand that balanced and appropriate diet that is adapted to your needs and goals is the foundation you should rely on.
Sports supplement industry comes with new and “superior” supplements all the time, claiming that a particular supplement will change your life. For this reason, it is easy to lose the track and end up wasting your money for expensive pee. People I know, whether that be colleagues, karate athletes or sports enthusiast, ask me all the time what supplement they should take or what type of a diet they should follow. And the thing is what works for me, might not be working for them.
We are all different human beings, with different genetics, lifestyle, energy requirement, living in different environments. However, when it comes to the supplements that can have a positive benefit on the karate performance, these are some of the supplements that I would recommend:
- Creatine – performant enhancing and brain function
- Nitrates – beetroot juice – performance enhancing
- Caffeine – performance enhancing and brain function
- Vitamin B complex
- Vitamin C – antioxidant, health
Creatine is one of the most researched supplements of all the supplements you can find on the market. It is a compound made from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine, joined together by phosphorus, creating phosphocreatine (PC). Phosphocreatine serves as stored energy, readily available during high-intensity activities, for resynthesizing of adenosine triphosphate ATP.
ATP is the energy fuel used by our cells. There is substantial evidence backed up by lots of research that creatine helps in increasing strength and power output (“strength compressed in time”). Some might refer to it as speed strength as well. This is precisely what we are aiming for in the karate training, regardless of whether we talk about kata or kumite.
Although it is a useful supplement, everyone will have a different response. Studies have shown that the benefit will depend on the type of muscles and the initial creatine content found in the tissue. This means that people with high level of type 2 muscle fiber and low initial level of creatine responded better than those with a high initial level of creatine content and a lower percentage of type 2 type muscle fiber.
Taking this into consideration, whether someone will have a benefit from taking creatine will depend on genetics. For this reason, it is unrealistic to generalize specific supplement as better than others.
Another thing we need to take in consideration is the type of creatine. The supplement industry knows how to sell a product and people can be easily misled, and tempted to buy a certain type of creatine that promises better and more superior effects than the primary form of creatine, which is known as creatine monohydrate.
No matter how “old” and “primitive” this type of creatine is, this is the one used in most of the studies conducted so far, and precisely this one, the monohydrate, is the one that has shown the best results related to sports performance and power output. Now, there is one type of creatine worth mentioning, that has shown better performance regarding absorption, the polyethylene glycosylated creatine, that has been tested together with the creatine monohydrate.
In this research, both groups, one using monohydrate and the other polyethylene glycosylated creatine shown increase in power output. However, the polyethylene glycosylate was more efficiently absorbed, requiring 75% lower dose, compared with the monohydrate.
Regardless of this interesting study, more studies need to be done. Until then, it is better to stay with the cheaper and effective, creatine monohydrate.
Besides the type of creatine, very often, it is debatable how should it be administered. One way is with a loading phase, in which 20g of creatine is consumed in the first five days. This is followed by a period of maintaining the creatine levels through ingestion of 5-10 g of creatine per day.
The other method does not involve loading phase, just consuming 5 grams of creatine per day for a prolonged time. Both ways have been proven to be effective. The difference is that with the second one the effects can be seen after three weeks, whereas in the first one, much faster.
The creatine monohydrate is best absorbed with a meal, in a combination of carbohydrates and proteins. Since it does not have an immediate effect, it’s best to take it after a workout with your meal.
Nitrates are something that recently came to my attention and is worth considering it when talking about supplementation. The reason for this is because it is safe and can provide health and performance benefits.
Inorganic nitrate (NO3) is a food product, produced by our body, which gets converted in nitric oxide, which has been shown that has a profound effect on the cardiovascular health and blood pressure management. The nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels in the muscles, and by that, we get improved O2 delivery to the working tissues, possible reduced level of blood lactate, which can result in enhanced anaerobic capacity and force production.
Taking into consideration the nature on the karate, whether that be kata or kumite, it might be a good idea to supplement with food reach in nitrate. These foods include various leafy greens and beetroot. (beetroot juice)
If you choose to consume a beetroot juice, take it before a workout for best effect. Otherwise, you can spread out the consumption of green leafy vegetables for getting health benefits.
This the most abandoned nootropic and at the same time the least expensive supplements that have a potential to enhance your performance. Besides mental benefits, caffeine can have a positive effect on the performance as well, which is why many athletes, including Mijat Vojvodic, a world-class karateka, takes it as a pre-workout supplement to enhance his performance.
Depending on the individual preferences, and whether someone is a coffee drinker or not, people decide to use the caffeine benefits through coffee consumption or taking caffeine in the form of a tablet. I am a coffee lover and having a cup of coffee before practice would be my personal choice. On top of that, by drinking coffee, you get all the other positive health benefits such as increased utilization of free fatty acids, increased insulin sensitivity, improved glucose tolerance, antioxidants and more.
The caffeine helps in improving your performance through increased mental focus. It can also benefit the anaerobic cardiovascular capacity due to the increased fatigue tolerance and power output.
The dose used for fat-burning purposes is around 200mg, while temporary strength increases occur at higher doses, 500mg and above. The dosage used for performance enhancement purposes will vary from individual to individual, which depends on the tolerance and how it is metabolized in the body.
One side effect that I have seen in people is the jittery effect after consuming a cup of coffee. This is an undesirable effect, especially for something like karate where focus and ability to concentrate is required.
To avoid this negative effect, consider consuming your pre-workout coffee with L-theanine, which is an amino acid that has a calming effect and can be found in some teas. This is the reason why some people tolerate green tea better than coffee.
Safe doses of caffeine are considered everything up to 400mg. This is individual, so you’ll need to find the dosage that works best for you. People with cardiovascular health concerns should be cautious.
Another thing to have in mind is that the effects of the caffeine fade with time during continuous consumption of coffee or another beverage. Because of this, it would be nice to cycle (going on and off) the caffeine consumption for maximum results in performance.
Vitamins are necessary for optimal work of different body systems, and there is an endless debate about whether it’s better to use multivitamins or focus only on taking certain kind of vitamins separately. People should be able to get a decent percentage of the requested dose of vitamins if they follow a well-balanced diet. However, the number goes higher if the demands you put on your body on a daily basis are higher compared with those of an average person. This is the case with every athlete, and for this reason, supplementing with vitamins might be a good choice. Vitamin supplementation will help your body to deal with the daily stress and enhance your mental and overall performance.
As mention before, some agree, and some disagree, whether taking multivitamins is just a waste of your money or not. If you do choose to use any, I would suggest going with high-quality ones, which can be a bit more expensive than the most on the market.
Right now we are going to focus on two vitamins that could potentially enhance your health and performance.
Vitamin B (B complex)
B vitamins regulate many processes in the body. The benefits of vitamin B are both, health and performance related. When it comes to performance, we are talking about mental and physical performance through efficient use of the nutrients from the food we consume.
To have a balance and get all the benefits correlated with B vitamins it is better to include the whole spectrum of vitamin B, or B complex. This is the reason why:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin) – convert the energy in the food we consume to muscular energy and heat. The coenzyme thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP) is particularly important for carbohydrate energy metabolism.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – involved in normal cellular function and energy production through its coenzymes flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and flavin mononucleotide (FMN). These enzymes are mainly engaged in obtaining energy from carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
- Vitamin B6 – involved in protein metabolism, protein synthesis, metabolism of fat and carbohydrates, the formation of neurotransmitters and glycolysis. Glycolysis means breaking down of glucose and support the process of ATP production.
- Vitamin B12 – it is the most chemically complex vitamin of all vitamins. It is directly involved in red blood cell formation, folic acid metabolism, DNA synthesis, and nerve development.
Having a well-balanced diet that includes poultry, eggs, meat, fish and dairy products, will provide an adequate amount of vitamin B. However, if you are a vegetarian or exposed to high stress, it might be beneficial to consider supplementing with B complex.
Vitamin B is best to absorb on an empty stomach. However, there are people you might experience nausea. In that case, have a small meal or snack with your vitamins.
Most of the people are familiar with his antioxidative properties and protecting our body from different stressors and free radicals we get exposed to through our environment and workout. Related to the sports performance, vitamin C can influence athletes’ performance by:
- Aiding in the production of epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters that help in degrading the glycogen making it readily available for the muscles to use it;
- Enhances the abortion of iron. This is important for female athletes.
- Improves the synthesis of carnitine, which is a molecule responsible for the transport of the fatty acids into mitochondria for energy metabolism.
Now I would like to address the elephant in the room. The most common mistake is taking vitamin C right before and after a workout. It seems logical since it is a powerful antioxidant. However, it can actually harm your performance and the ability of your body to recover.
If we take antioxidants before exercise (vitamin C, E or Q10) we hinder the insulin sensitivity and the ability of the body to respond to different stressors. If taking them right after a workout, again we shut down the natural ability of the body to protect itself and respond to stressors.
For this reason, for best results, take your vitamin C supplement in the morning on an empty stomach, at least 2 hours before your workout or 2-3 hour after. When it comes to dosing, do not exceed 1.5 mg (single dose), since our body cannot absorb more at ones.
Wrapping it up
What about you
What’s been your experience with supplements? Do you have any particular supplement that you found helpful for maintaining your health and improving your performance?
Did you find this helpful? If yes, please share your thoughts in the comments.
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