Did you know that everyone, from the fitness newbie to the weekend warrior, can improve their performance with the right type of Sports Nutrition? Dr. Alan Logan explains the research showing that motivation, perceived exertion and cognitive performance can all be favourably altered with certain foods and nutritional components!
Why “sports nutrition” matters to all of us
In the last decade there has been a tremendous amount of research devoted to evaluating nutrition as a means to support and even enhance peak athletic performance. The results of these investigations, housed under the umbrella term ‘sports nutrition’, have clearly indicated that genetic endowment and training commitment being equal, nutrition matters. It matters a lot. Consider, for example, the dozen or so studies showing that beets, yes beets, can improve athletic performance and endurance in particular. Research shows that beet consumption (vs. placebo) can improve endurance in human subjects by as much as 15%. For any individual seeking a competitive edge, 15% over your rivals is massive.
In the world of athletic performance it would be easy, based on research findings, to make similar arguments for the consideration of branch chain amino acids, protein, carbohydrates, electrolytes, individual minerals (e.g. magnesium), creatine and other food-based chemicals found in a healthy diet. Emerging studies have clearly indicated that these and other nutritional factors are critical not only for maximal performance, both in the mental (cognitive) and muscular realms, they are vital for recovery and readiness for subsequent bouts of exercise. Elite athletes and those who aspire to be like them – i.e. those in whom being physically active is part of their psychological identity – are usually more aware of the benefits of sports nutrition than the average citizen. But what about the rest of us? Is all of this accumulation of knowledge related to nutrition and exercise physiology/psychology only for the elites? Are there broad implications to the research findings in sports nutrition? How might the larger group – the 85% of the population that do not meet even minimum guidelines for physical activity – use the lessons learned in sports nutrition to their own benefit?
One of the glaring differences between the very physically active and the sedentary adult, particularly those who may have some depressive symptoms or who may be overweight, is that exercise feels different to both groups. The physically active adults usually feel good after a workout; in fact they may feel down if they don’t get a workout in! Such is not the case with the sedentary adult – motivation is low and the perception of exertion/fatigue is very high. Moreover, the mood lift is typically not there. Lack of conditioning equates to higher levels of inflammatory chemical production post-workout, and this in turn can lower mood state and diminish motivation for a subsequent bout of exercise. For example, when researchers intentionally provoke low-grade inflammation in otherwise healthy, well-adjusted adults, these healthy adults begin to complain of fatigue, cognitive fog and depressive symptoms. Therefore, it is easy to see how dietary factors – e.g. cherry, apples, beets – with antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties would be valuable when consumed post-exercise.
Put simply, we are arguing that the very nutritional variables that have been shown to enhance endurance and decrease perceived exertion are the very ones that are linked to better mood and mental, not just muscular, readiness for physical activity. We can view the connection from the macro level – i.e. adherence to the Mediterranean diet over time is associated with both reduced depressive symptoms and improved physical performance, while a 10-day Mediterranean diet intervention increases vigor, alertness and contentment. These are obviously desirable mental components to break down barriers to physical activity. We can also view the connection from the micro level – i.e. specific dietary antioxidants and magnesium can improve mood and diminish perceived exertion. Sports nutrition ingredients such as creatine, proven to be of value in muscular strength at low doses, have recently been shown to improve the outcome of antidepressant medications. Meanwhile, even the mildest degrees of dehydration have been shown to diminish cognitive performance and enhance perceived exertion in a bout of exercise. How many of the 85% who are not engaging in regular physical activity are also spending the day in mild states of dehydration – probably too many to count, and the extent to which this compromises engagement with physical activity may be untold.
We can only conclude that nutrition – and the nutritional ingredients in Genuine Health’s activfuel+ and activrecover+ – are of relevance to anyone that may even be contemplating an increase in their physical activity. These nutritional factors would only help to minimize the barriers to exercise, diminishing perceived exertion, reducing the discomfort associated with exercise, and magnifying its positive mental association.
Eva M. Selhub, MD
Alan C. Logan, ND
This editorial is adapted from the peer-reviewed article Sports Nutrition in the Context of Lifestyle Medicine. IHP 2013
The Natural Advantage
Nature Rocks! We are inseparable from the natural environment that we live in, and need the resources of our environment- soil, plants, animals, sunlight, water and clean air. Our planet provides the essential materials of our existence and also gives us the gift of natural health products. Harnessing the healing power of nature has been done for thousands of years all over the planet – in fact, the word “physician” is from the Greek root meaning “nature”! The action of natural substances even informs the synthesis of many pharmaceuticals.
Natural health supplements give you a nutrition advantage – and ensure that requirements are met and imbalances can be compensated for. What’s better than feeling better? Avoiding get run down and sick in the first place! Incorporating some high performance supplements into your daily regime can give your body a “nourish and protect” advantage – preventing illness before it happens. Working with professionals in natural health modalities can be extremely effective in finding safe ways to get to the underlying causes of imbalances and disease – shifting your body into a self-healing mode.
Understanding how nature can support your health goes hand in hand with respecting nature in turn, but choosing Natural Health Products that contain ingredients that have been responsibly and ethically sourced. Respecting the design of nature is also important, and you can do this by choosing companies that offer transparency into how and where the ingredients are sourced, do not use GMO ingredients which ultimately means respecting Nature’s original designs. We believe in nature’s intuition in providing the best possible materials to build healthy, nourishing formulas. We never have, and never will, use GMOs in Genuine Health products.
But it isn’t just about natural products that you take internally; external natural factors contribute to wellbeing too! Our environment is the ultimate Natural Health Product – powerful in its ability to provide healing benefits. Even in the biggest cities there are greenspaces to be found nearby to visit and make nature a part of every day. Research is continuing to show how communing with nature – even for 30 minutes a day – can have profound effects on stress levels and emotional health. Not only that – a dose of nature can bolster your workout – providing complimentary cognitive benefits to the physical side of activities.