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Nutrition Only, or Supplementation? (Part 2/2)

To follow up on my first article on supplements, we will take a look at three other products: BCAAs, glutamine, and bicarbonate. However, before you even think about using any products, always ask yourself: do I really need this?

BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)

  • Objective: better muscular recovery, strengthening of the immune system, and reduction of muscle breakdown through the preservation of proteins;
  • Use: give priority before intense training or long sports events, such as a marathon, Ironman, cycling competition, etc., with the aim of accelerating muscular recovery, reducing muscle stiffness, and preventing a drop in immune function;
  • Directions: according to scientific studies, it appears that 0.4g/kg/day, combined with an adequate protein intake has no adverse effects on health. Make sure to drink 3 l of water per day to eliminate waste without overloading the kidneys;
  • When to use: up to one week prior to a long sports event/training, or even during (some sports drinks contain BCAAs, including X1 and Cytomax). For those who want to gain muscle mass, consume before training;
  • Not enough scientific data to prove effectiveness.


  • Objective: to lessen the impact of drops in immune function, and reduce muscle breakdown through the preservation of proteins;
  • Use: after a long endurance sports event or training, or after a strength/power sports event or training (10 sec to 2 min intense effort at a time);
  • Directions: up to 4 servings of 5 g of glutamine per day with 30-60 minutes between each, up to a maximum of 20 g of glutamine per day, mixed with 100 g of carbohydrates (750 ml fruit juice, or 1 Vector fruit bar + 500 ml juice);
  • When to use: within 30 minutes following the end of your workout, and then in intervals of 30-60 minutes;
  • Not enough scientific data to prove effectiveness.


  • Objective: to counter the acidity generated through effort, and therefore reduce the perception of fatigue/pain during effort, thus promoting recovery;
  • Use: before a long sports event or training, or before a strength/power sports event or training (10 sec to 2 min intense effort at a time);
  • Directions: 0.2 to 0.4 g/kg with water, and a good pre-workout snack;
  • When to use: 60 to 120 minutes prior to exercising;
  • Effectiveness proven by available scientific literature.

CAUTION; major side effects are associated with the use of bicarbonate, such as spontaneous diarrhea for half of those who try it, as well as risks of hyperventilation.

Based on this information, if you are thinking about supplementing your nutrition, schedule an appointment with your personal trainer to discuss about the necessity of supplementation regarding the type of training you are doing, and meet with your nutritionist to assess your current nutrition, determine your individual needs, and get advice on supplementation, if necessary.

By Caroline Proulx, Dt. P.


Giardina and al. (2008) Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not affect athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and immune system.  Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness; 48(3), 347-351.

Gleeson, M. (2005). Interrelationship between physical activity and branch-chain amino acid. The Journal of Nutrition, 135, 1591S–1595S.

Gleeson, M. (2008). Dosing and Efficacy of Glutamine Supplementation in Human Exercise and Sport Training. The Journal of Nutrition, 138, 2045S-2049S.

Peart D. J. and al. (2012).  Practical recommendation for coaches and athletes : a meta-analysis of sodium bicarbonate use for athlete performance. Journal of Strenght and Conditioning Research, 26(7), 1975-1983


Caroline Proulx

Holder of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from McGill University, and member of the Ordre Professionnel des Diététistes du Québec, Caroline has been working as a nutritionist for Nautilus Plus since January 2013. A seasoned marathon runner with a passion for cooking, she also animates conferences and motivation groups about nutrition! “As I have not always been a keen athlete, I am very proud of having completed a marathon, and also of preparing the next ones! For me, nutrition is not only the key to optimal performance, but also a medicine in itself. Therefore, my objective is to encourage people to change their habits if they need to and motivate them to never give up, but first and foremost, make them realize that eating healthy is a pleasure that we are lucky to enjoy three times a day!”

Nutrition Only, or Supplementation? (Part 2/2) is a post from I'm taking charge. I'm taking charge is a blog that aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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