Nicotine patches have paved the way for a healthier life, in more ways than one because the latest trend in sports supplements is the delivery of performance-enhancing nutrients through your skin with transdermal supplements.
The concept is simple: spray on your supplements and off you go. It doesn’t have the sting that hypodermic needles inflict, nor does it need a glass of water to hand like oral supplements.
This technology has accelerated at such a rate that research in the journal Nature Biotechnology found that it now has applications to deliver vaccines, insulin, hormones and influenza inoculations. So you can expect to see many more of your favorite fitness supplements using this new transdermal delivery system.
How do transdermal supplements work?
The skin was once thought of as an airtight barrier, but now we know better because it is a porous layer through which chemicals can pass directly into your body.
Your medication is applied via a patch or a cream, which is mixed with substances that increase the permeability of your skin so that it can be absorbed by your body.
Sadly, your skin is maybe a little too trusting so it often absorbs things it probably shouldn’t, like artificial fragrances. That’s because it allows certain molecules to pass through the epidermal layer and thus into your blood stream where they can get to work.
But if there are the occasional hiccups like this, why would we risk going down this route?
Why transdermals work
The traditional approach is to throw a few tablets down your throat and wait 30 to 60 minutes for them to kick in. While there is nothing wrong with that approach, this can require some planning and if you’ve strategized poorly, then your pre-workout drink can kick energy your way just as you’re finishing up your workout.
This is not the case with transdermal supplements, which can spring into action in 5 to 10 minutes. So, if you’re having a ‘meh’ kind of workout then you can take action immediately, apply your supplement and feel ready to take it up a gear.
What’s more, research in the Oxford Journals found that people are more likely to stick to supplements and medication taken in this way. That’s probably because it’s easier to remember to rub in some cream or give yourself a spray rather than going to the trouble of taking a tablet. This is where transdermals win out.
And if you’re a ‘serial-supplementer’ then you’ll appreciate how difficult it is to remember to take your pills, so anything that breaks the monotony is going to be a welcome change and transdermal supplements do exactly that.
However, we might have to draw the line at taking our protein shakes through our biceps though. Hopefully, the whey protein companies don’t get any ideas for protein transdermals.
For more articles on transdermal supplements, nutrition tips, interviews and training advice, get TRAIN magazine direct into your inbox every month for free by signing up to our newsletter