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What supplements do Olympic weightlifters use?

Breaking Down the Benefits

Elite athletes use much more energy that the rest of us, but nutritionists and sports medicine professionals rarely recommend dietary supplements over a balanced diet unless an athlete has a deficiency. Still, many athletes and Olympians may choose to supplement their diet to help the body perform, recover and repair itself at peak performance.

Amino acids are what the body uses to build protein, and they also play a role in your body's metabolism and its ability to repair body tissues. There are three amino acids that the body can't produce itself, which have to come from food and supplements: These are called branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). One of the three, leucine, is believed to be responsible for synthesizing protein in the body -- essential for building muscle tissue -- hence why some elite athletes choose to take BCAA supplements.

Additionally, the amino acid L-Glutamine is popular among weightlifters and body builders, because it prevents muscle loss, promotes muscle growth and helps boost the muscle energy supply.

Your body also uses amino acids to produce a chemical called creatine, which it stores in its muscles. Creatine entered the public consciousness when athletes in the former USSR began to use it as a performance enhancer -- since 1992, it's been a go-to supplement for many athletes, because it may help improve overall performance as well as build strength and lean muscle mass during brief, intense training -- including weightlifting. Findings from a study that followed weightlifting performance while participants were using creatine supplements showed that weightlifters taking it had an average of 8 percent greater muscle strength and a 14 percent increase in lifting performance over those using a placebo [source: Rawson].

In addition to amino acid supplementation, weightlifters may find they benefit from glucosamine supplements. Glucosamine is an amino-monosaccharide, a compound of protein and carbohydrate that naturally occurs in your body and may help the body recover from injury by repairing and strengthening cartilage and reducing joint pain as well as joint swelling and stiffness.

There are also three essential minerals that keep Olympian bodies (and those of mere mortals) in tip-top shape.