“The supplement improved the oxygenation of some tissues to allow a person to maximize their workout to a new level (go longer, further, or faster),” said Dr. Mark Moyad, author of The Supplement Handbook. “In this case, as the demands of the body increase during exercise or as we age, taking a certain dosage of nitrate or something that increases nitric oxide might allow one to get a better exercise performance.”
More: 7 Doctor-Approved Ways to Avoid Bogus Supplements
Indeed, said Moyad, there are a variety of supplements on the market that can improve exercise performance (think nitrate or citrulline) or improve muscle strength and size (protein powder). But with all the bad press out there -- and all the supplement types to choose from -- it can be overwhelming if you’re looking to find a supplement that’s both safe and effective. Here is Moyad’s cheat sheet:
Read carefully: Scan a product’s ingredient list for the right nutrients. If you’re looking for a protein powder, for example, the primary ingredient should be protein. Other additions can serve to increase toxicity or cost, he said. On a similar note, now is when you should examine labels for undesirable characteristics -- is the product vegetarian? High in sugar? Gluten-free? These answers will be easy to find on reputable labels.
Do some recon: See if your trainer (or even your doctor) is involved with a company before taking their advice on supplement brands. “There is so much conflict of interest today,” said Moyad. “Ask directly if the person recommending or selling the product benefits from the sale of that product.”
More: The 5 Best Supplements for a Better Workout
Review the research: Don’t be afraid to ask for quality control test results from a supplement brand. Responsible companies will have nothing to hide.
Spot certifications: Scan labels for an NSF certification or other third party verification for safety.