By: Jana Finkbiner
RHN, Sports Nutritionist, Lifestyle Coach and Genuine Health Ambassador
These 4 words really do sum up the life of the athlete. The word that seems most important at first, is perform…look closer, and repeat may stand out clearly.
The ability to perform, will make us good athletes, but the ability to repeat and eventually beat ourselves, makes us great athletes.
Natural ability sets the stage, training prepares the athlete and competition drives the athlete to challenge each bench mark, whether its an opponent or themselves. With the help of trainers, nutrition coaches, physical therapists and the right recovery an athlete will be successful even when pushed to their limits.
Tony Robbins said ” The limiting factor (in success) is never resources, it’s resourcefulness“, in other words, what we choose to do with the tools we’re given. Today there is an entire industry geared towards helping athletes perform and recover, however, not everything out there is ‘good for you’ and will do what it claims. How do you tell the garbage from the gold?
Personally, I stick to science and my ability to understand what’s written between the lines of clever packaging, and tricky questions from skeptics such as “If the diet is healthy and calorically sufficient, then athletes don’t need to supplement do they?”
The Ergogenic Theory, or use of nutritional supplements to enhance, prevent or aid the physical body is essentially what is being questioned here.
Vitamins are metabolic regulators. For example, B Vitamins are used for processing carbohydrates and fats for energy production. Some of these B Vitamins help determine the efficiency of oxygen delivered to the muscles during aerobic exercise.
Antioxidants have been shown to prevent oxidative damage to the cells from training, such as Vitamin C and E, and our proteins are composed of amino acids.
Lastly, it’s safe to assume that a deficiency in any number of vitamins or minerals would inhibit physical performance.
So “to use or not to use” is the question. How do we assess individual necessity?
Take a look first at your output as a major indicator of how seriously you should be taking your input. Plain and simple, there is a major difference between the physical needs of an Ironman Triathlete and that of the semi-sedentary adult or even the casual gym-goer.
In the athlete context, we’ve concluded that the needs are greater or at least more specific, but how do we know what sports nutrition supplements are right for us?
Most of the athletes I know, and myself included are under the effects of stress. If you don’t know this by now, let me be the first to tell you, stress is more than an emotion, it is a biochemical state that is massively depleting. Stress takes a tole on the body’s resources that regulate the blood sugar, immune system function and hormone balance.
I’ll tell you what, injury, adrenal fatigue, lowered immune function and decrease metabolic and physical performance.
Anything that causes adrenal response is considered stress; everything from our jobs to the 2 hour soccer practice at the end of the day. And yes, just like training and nutrition, stress is a product of accumulation over long periods. Eventually, if high, it affects our ability to sleep, digest and absorb nutrients from our food and reduce our ability to regulate our blood sugar.
Never mind athletes, these are problems that no one wants to have. Most of the athletes I talk to say, they’re on a fine line, balancing between performing their best and complete burn out.
To adapt to stress, the body will use it’s stored resources. But we have the ability to replace and prevent the damage with specialized sports nutrition supplements, and better yet, we can choose products that are natural and supported by science.
Preparing for training, requires a product that provides:
Hydration which can be achieved at a higher level than water by using coconut, rich with natural electrolytes.
Energy from natural caffeine, like Kola nut and that also provides digestive and cardiovascular benefits.
Muscle Support from BCAAs to prevent breakdown during endurance activities.
Antioxidants from phytonutrients in certain fruits.
A big challenge for athletes is breaking the personal best. If you’re a athlete primarily working anaerobically or in short high intensity bursts, you rely on an energy system that uses creatine phosphate to produce energy. How much power is produced and the ability to repeat the movement, relies on available reserves in the body. Additional BCAAs and Creatine, can decrease the build up of lactic acid and prevent muscle tissue breakdown.
What about recovery; the repeat factor?
Replenishing the glycogen lost in training with a ratio is 2:1 carbohydrates to protein is the first step, while anti-inflammatories like lemon-verbena and tart cherry, play an important role in healing and reducing pain.
Finally, a good quality protein with natural ingredients is crucial to ensure that digestive potential isn’t trumped by the need to detoxify harmful chemicals, artificial sweeteners, colours and preservatives. The right protein will also include enzymes to aid in digestion and absorption.
When looking for the a Vegan protein, look for something sprouted and with a combination of proteins like brown rice, pea and hemp.
The nutritional requirements of an athlete, whether endurance or powder is unique, especially if they athlete intends to compete long term at his or her best. To rely on the diet alone means that the athlete is eating according to their training requirements, are fully hydrated, have optimal digestion, are under little to know stress, sleeping well and have unwavering energy levels.
This is very hard to achieve naturally, but we can be resourceful and choose quality sports nutrition supplements to enhance all aspects of performance and recovery, while providing the daily convenience needed for the athlete.