ISSA SN Chapter 9: Metabolites and Botanical Supplements

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Chapter Goals:

  • Describe and define the main terms that relate to the botanical supplements and metabolites.
  • Know the different forms of metabolites and botanical supplements and the major functions that they play a part in.
  • Discuss how these two things affect athletes and their performance or health.


Many other substances are found in the foods and supplements we take. These would fall under the category of botanicals, metabolites, and other performance enhancers. 

Low usage is recommended when starting off with any of these items. You should have solid record keeping to determine if any major benefits arise. 


 These are the substances that we have in parts of the metabolism systems. We can produce some of these within our body, and others we need to take in from food sources. Some metabolites like creatine, carnitine, and co-Q10 are found in supplemental form. 

The body can make them, but it is still a good idea to load up on these substances to prevent any kind of shortage when exercising and to create a reserve in the body. 

Athletes in research have been shown to have their performance improved with the presence of certain metabolites. 


This is another catchall term. This one is for plant substances. Herb is another word that would be used for these substances.

Prescribing plants is one of the oldest health sciences out there. Many plants have beneficial and powerful components in them. 

Standardizing Botanical Supplements for Consistency (Quality)

The biggest concern regarding these substances is that they are different. They are not created equal. This is due to them truly depending on the soil in which they are grown and how they are harvested. You must be consistent in these processes if you want consistent content. The manufacturing process is one of the things that has to be looked at more so now. 

Variability with Efficacy and Safety

The variability is going to be expected in these botanicals and metabolites. 

Some of this variability in the body and the variability of effects will be seen differently if people have high or low natural levels of these substances. If someone has naturally low levels, they will likely see a lot greater effects due to increased intake. And the opposite when you see high natural levels. 


Like our essential nutrients, the daily doses of metabolites and botanicals will be put in dosages divided, taken in 2, 3, or even more times every day. 

Alkalinizers, Blood Bluffers

Much research is all about sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda. Many ergogenic reports have been seen for this substance, especially when the athlete is going through repeated workouts of max workload. This is in things such as sprinting. 

While these are experimental, they will require clinical supervision when used. 

Doses with water on an empty stomach one hour before activity are good to be taken in. if there are effects gastro-intestinally, then quarter doses should be switched to. 

Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methyl butyrate (BHMB or HMB)

This metabolite supplement has been used by weightlifters and is reported with solid research to increase lean body mass and strength.

BHMB can be made in the body from leucine amino acids. We also find it in many supplements and products designed for athletes. 

About 3 grams daily is the most effective dosage for people to see measurable differences.


Increasing physical and mental performance, athletic performance, and many other things are well documented with adequate caffeine intake in safe use and certain conditions. 

A major issue with caffeine and similar drugs is going to be the misuse and abuse that causes unhealthy side effects. The side effects related to the use of caffeine that we often see are:

  • Nervousness and jitteriness 
  • It is harder to fall, stay, and have a good night of sleep. 
  • The heartbeat increases
  • Blood pressure raises
  • The heart rhythm is uneven
  • Headaches and dizziness can occur
  • Health concerns arise for pregnant and lactating women

An intake of around 400 mg of caffeine is seen to be safe. And having that every day does not give rise to concern either.

Caffeine is naturally occurring and put in the group we call methylxanthines. We find this in foods like coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some other botanicals. We also synthesize caffeine and it is sold as a nonprescription drug. It is used in this sense as an aid for alertness and a stimulant for the body. 

Several of the main effects of caffeine are desirable. These include alertness of the nervous system, mild diuretic effects, and cardiac muscle stimulation. Lipolysis increases and increases in physical activity in general, and then thermogenic activity stimulation. 

For athletes, caffeine should be more than just a morning drink. We see the effects on performance for athletes as very beneficial, especially for endurance athletes and those that exercise for longer periods. 

Research has shown caffeine increases the rate at which we lose fat in the body. 

It is often used as an aid in losing weight these days. It promotes the use of fat as energy due to the addition to the rate of caloric expenditure. It also affects the amount of water we will retain in our bodies. 

Caffeine will cause mental burnout if taken in excess, especially all at one time in doses over 200 mg. 

Athletes need to be assessed by doctors and medical staff to see the exact amount that would be most beneficial for them. It should be used more periodically than every day and just regularly. You should hydrate very well before intaking a lot of caffeine. These dosages are taken one hour before the competition to see the best effects of the drug.

The main downside to this drug is the causes of dependency and alterations being made in your physiology. You should never exceed 1 gram of caffeine. 

The military is rather famous for using caffeine to get the best performance in their soldiers. 

Carnitine / Acetyl-L-Carnitine

We can make carnitine in the body. Its main role is as a transporter for the fatty acids to get to our mitochondria. It is now considered a conditionally essential nutrient due to its researched effectiveness. So, the body is quite well benefited when taking in this metabolite. 

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The athletic benefits are seen as things such as endurance being raised, the max VO2 being improved, reduced levels of lactate buildup when exercising, and improved anaerobic strength output with the effects of protection from antioxidants. 

Carnitine is also seen to be very useful in increasing the rate of losing fat and the use of fat as energy. 

We see intakes of 2 – 4 grams of carnitine each day yielding the best results toward the performance of athletes. There is also some report of usefulness in carnitine loading.

The purposes of carnitine in Health Canada are seen as follows:

  • It aids in the recovery of your muscles, tissue damage from workouts, and the resistance training regimen. 
  • Help in supporting the repair of muscle tissue in standard resistance training.
  • This helps to improve the performance physically when it is used while in a program.
  • There is a help for the delay in fatigue from physical activity. 
  • There is help for the metabolism of fat and the oxidation of fat.
  • It serves as an antioxidant.

There should never be more than 2 grams taken in one single dosage of carnitine. 

Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone)

This metabolite has a history of assisting people with cardiovascular disorders. The safety and effectiveness of its use are shown well under the watch of doctors. 

CQ10 is found in all cells in the mitochondria and plays a role in oxidative energy production. It is also reported to play a role as an antioxidant also. 


We use creatine nutritionally to increase the creatine levels in the body within our muscle tissues. We find creatine in our food and we make it in the body. This is mostly in foods like animal products. 

Creatinine is a waste product that occurs from the use of creatine.

We make creatine from the 3 amino acids known as glycine, arginine, and methionine. Normal requirements are about 2 grams daily for people that are not athletes. 

Loading of creatine is seen to have results like improvements in training intensity and recovery from anaerobic sports. This is done by loading up the reserves of creatine phosphate the muscles have. We see the most benefits occur in the quick and powerful activity types. 

Some of the benefits overall of the use of creatine are:

  • Increases in the lean tissue and the size of tissues and resistance training programs.
  • Improvements made in strength and performance in repetitive bouts of quick high intensity activities.
  • One option for loading the creatine in the body is to take 15 – 20 grams daily for one week.
  • Another option is the use of 3 – 5 grams per use for at least 4 weeks.
  • For maintenance, in general, we see 2 – 5 grams every day.

Gamma Oryzanol and Ferulic Acid

This is a substance we find in rice bran oil. It is shown to promote many metabolic effects like the release of endorphins, the action of antioxidants and lipotropic effects, the reduction of stress, stimulation of growth hormone, growth, and recovery. 

We see the use of 200 mg of Ferulic acid each day and/or 300 – 900 mg of gamma oryzanol every day.

Some studies have shown rather significant gains in strength, specifically in the one rep max bench tests, as it is often researched.


Many types of ginseng have been used for thousands of years to promote optimal health and better energy levels.

Some of the benefits coming from ginseng are:

  • Performance improvements physically as well as uptake of oxygen and post exercise recovery.
  • Improvements in aerobic capacity.
  • Increased time to exhaustion is often seen.
  • Reductions in the lactic acid buildup due to exercise. 
  • Improvements in the max Vo2.
  • Reductions in overall body fat.
  • Increased use of fatty acids for energy.
  • Increased recovery of the heart rate.
  • Mental performance improvements like reaction time, feelings of tiredness, recall, and psychomotor performance. 
  • Increased levels of alertness.
  • Improvements in the amount of coordination.
  • Improvements in the reaction time.
  • Decreases in the level of strain on the eyes.

Some other effects on athletes could be:

  • Maintaining a healthy immune system. 
  • Lowered levels of glucose.
  • Support for the function of cognition and mental fatigue reduction in stress.
  • Help enhance the capacity of your body physically in times of stress.
  • Offer medical uses for athletes.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate (CS)

We have many types of connective tissues in the body, from cartilage to tendons, ligaments, pads, and many more. One third of the total protein in the body is found in collagen. Thus, it is the most common protein in the whole body. 

These two metabolites will make up a large portion of these molecules. 

Glucosamine is seen as the most important substance in connective tissue synthesis. It is used for the repair of these tissues, and it is super effective. It is seen as one of the main ways to avoid issues with your connective tissues. 

Benefits for Athletes Are Actually Old News

These glucosamine metabolites were highlighted due to the benefits of healing knee problems in younger athletes.

Research Reports More Benefits from Taking G&CS Supplements

Some other purposes include:

  • There is some relief seen for the joints when someone has osteoarthritis.
  • We see cartilage health maintained more so with supplementation of these. 


This is going to be produced in the body like other metabolites. These supplements have not been shown to have any effect on athletic performance. But, in terms of other bodily processes, we see them stimulated. Melatonin has been shown to promote more restful and deeper sleep. With sleep, we see many different hormones increase, as do the growth and repair of muscles. Cortisol is reduced and there are many anti-catabolic effects. 

The long term effects of use have not been studied as of yet, so you should not use this supplement for more than 4 weeks at a time. 


Dietary nitrates have been shown to promote positive effects on the circulatory system and some benefits in the realm of sports and exercise. 

Physical endurance in both athletes and nonathletes has been seen to be positively affected by the intake of these nitrates. 


This is a name used for bark from a French maritime pine tree. 

Some of the benefits seen in athletes are:

  • Greater nitric oxide in our blood vessels can cause better blood flow.
  • Increases in the activity of antioxidants and reductions in stress related to exercise.
  • The capillary walls are strengthened. 
  • We see improvements in the time of healing for individuals.
  • Reductions in edema.
  • Alleviations in pain and cramping of our muscles.
  • Enhancements in the endurance levels.
  • And a few other small sport related effects. 
Study the ISSA SN Chapter 9: Metabolites and Botanical Supplements 4
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Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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