Athletes are always seeking an edge. In my experience, this is true of the pros and weekend warriors alike.
Achieving peak athletic performance requires physical conditioning, sport-specific training, and a dialed-in nutrition plan.
But once these foundational elements are in place, supplements can make the difference for those last few percentage points.
If you are looking to boost your athletic performance, there are only a handful of truly evidence-based supplements.
These are the best of the best, according to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism:
Anecdotally, I know my morning run feels a whole lot easier after a couple cups of coffee. It turns out my experience is backed by science.
In fact, caffeine has been shown to improve endurance capacity (e.g. running, cycling, swimming), speed (short sprints), and strength (weight lifting).
Low to moderate doses of caffeine (3–6 mg per kg of body weight), consumed 60 minutes pre-exercise, appear to have the most consistent performance benefits. That equates to roughly 2–4 standard cups of coffee for a 150lb person.
Low doses of caffeine (100–300mg) consumed during endurance exercise have also been shown to enhance performance. This is why you often see caffeine coming in chewing gum, sports gels, or energy bars.
When consumed in these quantities, before and/or during exercise, athletes have seen performance improvements in the range of 1–8%.
Of note, higher doses of caffeine (more than 9mg per kg of body weight, equivalent to 6+ cups of coffee for 150lb person) can hurt performance, causing nausea and anxiety.
Creatine Monohydrate has been one of the most widely-studied sports supplements, with consistently positive performance benefits.
Creatine has been shown to enhance lean mass, maximal power/strength, and performance of short high-intensity exercise (less than 2.5 minutes, with the most robust effects for bursts of less than 30 seconds). The benefits of creatine for endurance exercise is less clear.