There is a lot of debate out there whether or not there is a place for sports nutrition products in an athlete’s nutritional program. Are they needed? Do they provide any value? Can’t food give you everything you need? Well if you take a look at the products on the market you may see where a lot of confusion comes from; artificial ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, unnatural flavourings, chemical dyes and even flame retardants. Athletes are supposed to be healthy, but how can consuming this junk have any benefit to training?
You’re right! Whether junky supplements or junky food, these unnatural ingredients take a toll on your body and over time will have a deleterious effect on your health and performance. However that is not to say there isn’t a role for properly formulated sports nutrition products; one’s that nourish, support your unique athletic needs, and enhance your performance, not just today but in the years to come.
Athlete’s need more. The physical demands they put on their bodies require additional support in order to prevent muscle loss, reduce the risk of injury, illness or overtraining, promote efficient recovery, and meet performance goals. This means more calories, more carbohydrates, more protein, and more nutrients to support the physical stress they place on themselves every day they set out to train. Physical attributes aside, what you put in your body also greatly affects your mental health – focus, determination, drive, happiness, sleep – if you aren’t nourishing your body properly and paying attention to the specific nutrients demands your head game will also pay the price that inevitably will cascade down to your physical performance.
The Dieticians of Canada, American Dietetic Association, and American College of Sports Nutrition all agree; athletic performance and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal health. Appropriate foods, timing of intake, and supplement choice all play a role in performance. The fuel you put in your body will ultimately determine your endurance, stamina, and strength. It will give you the edge to push harder, go faster, and recover quicker so that you can give it your best.
But this goes back to food…. Can’t diet alone help you reach your goals? Yes and no. You can’t outsmart a poor diet. All the supplements and training in the world will not negate this. But as mentioned before athletes need more; more calories, more carbohydrates, more protein, and more nutrients to really allow them to harness the power that is within, which just can’t be met by food alone. This is where quality, natural supplements come into play to help bridge nutritional deficiencies and prevent any ill effects that can result from them.
First and foremost, athletes need calories. Without enough fuel coming in, an athlete won’t be able to achieve improvements in performance, and overall health will begin to suffer. Inadequate consumption can lead to muscle loss, low energy, slow recovery, risk of fatigue, illness, and hormonal imbalances. While it might seem easy enough to eat more food, a lot of athlete’s struggle with this as their caloric demands greatly outnumber the physical space they have in their stomachs. Liquid meals, as in protein shakes, are a great way to remedy this as liquid meals can provide a big number of calories in an easy to digest format.
Next there is the carb thing; with no energy in the tank you won’t get very far. Carbohydrates are stored in your muscles and liver in the form of glycogen, which can be broken down for glucose if blood sugar levels dip too low. The more active you are, the more muscle mass you have, the more carbohydrates you need. Consuming an easy to digest form of carbohydrate, like a product designed specifically for pre-workout, within 30 minutes before a workout will ensure that you have sufficient stores to give you the energy you need. Likewise, having an easy to digest carbohydrate immediately after a workout is critical to replenishing lost stores of glycogen and aiding in the uptake of valuable amino acids from protein to prevent muscle loss. Having a product designed specifically for post-workout nutrition really helps not only the demand for increased carbohydrates to be met, but also with the sensitive timing that is needed where hungry cells are most receptive to utilize the influx of carbohydrates most efficiently. Using a supplement balanced in carbs to protein immediately after a workout, lets you capitalize on this window by providing you with a convenient product that takes the guess work out of what to eat.
Athlete’s often forget that training hard is actually quite stressful on the body, and just like during other stressful events in our lives we are at greater risk for illness and injury. This is where supplements are needed the most; to support the body and help it better adapt to the stress it is under so that training doesn’t become derailed. While it is important to eat a colourful diet in order to get a daily dose of antioxidants, there are ingredients out there that are researched in athletes specifically to reduce inflammation and improve recovery time. When it comes to exercise you actually want a little bit of inflammation, it’s what helps you adapt to exercise and eventually get stronger. If you blunt the inflammation process with too many antioxidants and anti-inflammatories you actually take away from some of the gains that you are trying to achieve. Conversely too few antioxidants/anti-inflammatories can be just as damaging, as without them pain and stiffness can take hold, preventing you from getting to your next workout as quickly as hoped.
Last, but certainly not least is the increased need for protein. Protein is needed to rebuild muscles, but also plays a role in proper hormone production, immune function, sleep quality, and reduced risk for injury. Athletes require more protein than sedentary people, meaning that at every meal and at every snack they need to ensure they are consuming some form of protein. Again this is where sports nutrition supplements really help to bridge any nutrition gaps; getting a quality source every time you eat is easier said than done. Protein powders provide and easy, and convenient way to meet the additional need for protein any time of day as they can be added into smoothies, homemade protein bars, or baked goods to up their protein content. Likewise clean, pre-made, protein bars also provide a great option for on-the-go snacking, and are a great insurance plan to carry with you to quickly quiet a hungry stomach.
Whether choosing one type of product to help fill in a nutritional gap or a whole line up to take your training to the edge, ensure you choose formulas that are clean, natural, and have been formulated by health care professionals, like naturopathic doctors and sports nutrition experts, who really understand the unique needs that an athlete has. With proper sports nutrition, whether you are a beginner or elite athlete allows you to take your training to the next level, and give yourself the competitive edge to help you achieve your goals and reach your peak performance. #ItMatters.
The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition 7th Edition. Bean, A
Dieticians of Canada. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. http://www.dietitians.ca/downloadable-content/public/noap-position-paper.aspx