Sports nutrition was once reserved for professional athletes and the niche sector of bodybuilders looking to increase their gains. In recent years, sports nutrition has hit the spotlight and is a popular fixture in many fitness lovers’ routines.
The basis of sports nutrition is to provide your body with the correct amount of nutrients and fuel to sustain energy for improved fitness. Since its early inception into the market, its nutritional significance has made its way into many styles of training from weight training to weight loss. So is this type of nutrition right for you in the long term and do you need to include it in a dietary program for enriched fitness?
Take a look at some of the most common questions about sports nutrition and whether or not it is worth the hype.
Are sports supplements safe?
Supplements are readily available throughout the UK, and many claim to have a range of different benefits from helping you gain muscles to assisting in weight loss. While there are many reputable suppliers in the market with products that are safe to eat and drink, it is advisable to speak with a dietician or doctor about how they can fully benefit your goals.
Eating healthy better than supplements?
There is no substitute for a balanced diet rich in nutrients and different food types. If you think that supplements will provide a magical solution for faster fitness gains, then it is highly likely you have not considered how a supplement can work for you in the long-term.
Simple changes in what you eat will fill some of the gaps that you need to improve performance in the gym and to realise that supplements are just that, a supplement to a varied diet will help you create a flexible food plan to assist your fitness regime.
Alicia Edge, Advanced Sports Dietitian at Compeat Nutrition, says: “As an Advanced Sports Dietitian, supplements are part of my daily environment working with professional and elite athletes. If I was to only ever recommend or use one supplement, it would not be the packaged or manufactured kind. These are really only useful or to be considered once the key box to nutrition has been ‘ticked’.
“The greatest improvements to performance and health can be gained from the basics, the boring bits. I am talking working from the ground up with your nutrition so that we see supplements as only the sprinkles of a well baked cake. My supplement would be whole foods – utilising timing and periodisation to gain benefits well and truly superior to supplements.”
Tom MacCormick, Personal Trainer and Online Coach at Flat Whites Free Weights, adds: “I am a personal trainer and online coach with over 14 years experience. Before that I was a professional rugby player, and I have used sports nutrition supplements extensively over the years and recommend many to my clients.
“With that said, they are not miraculous. They cannot replace a good diet. The clue is in the name; they should supplement a healthy nutrition plan. Some supplements can help recovery from training and impact performance indirectly over the long-term through the ability to train more often and/or intensely. Others aid performance directly and immediately. The supplements that have a performance effect are few and far between.
“There are a small few well researched supplements that have consistently shown benefits in the research. These are creatine, caffeine, and omega-3. Most other supplements out there are just clever marketing backed up with little or no research. In my experience too many people use supplements as a crutch for hard work and dedication to their training, diet, and recovery protocols. To get the best from sport nutrition supplements the foundations must be in place first. Good quality nutrition and sleep will give better results than any store bought supplement. If, however, you have the basics in place they can give you a small percentage improvement which can give you the edge over your competitors.”
Is too much protein bad for you?
When it comes to protein, the recommended amount to consume is between 0.3 to 2g per kilogram of weight. Protein supplements are one of the most popular products in the nutrition market, and they help to increase protein levels to build and maintain body tissue. This type of supplement comes in different forms including shakes, tablets and snack bars and is often consumed at various intervals throughout the day when training.
If you are not getting enough protein in your diet, this type of supplement could help, but there is also evidence that you could get the same amount of nutrition from increasing food in your diet that contains natural protein such as eggs, poultry, dairy and beans. There is also known to be cases that overeating protein can have effects on your health such as worsening any kidney problems you may have and increasing your risk of osteoporosis over time. this is where a keto diet may be beneficial, as it will require you to force your body into a metabolic state by reducing your carbs, and eating more fats.
“For ‘gains’ the best option for those who can tolerate dairy is pure organic grass-fed whey powder. Other than that whole foods generally do the trick. Pure grass-fed beef gelatin powder, grass-fed offal, organic fruit and veg, good quality oils… All contain essential nutrients the body needs and can be utilised by the body, unlike supplements which have been created to try and mimic individual nutrients but actually end up causing harm because the body can’t process them efficiently.”
Are sports drinks better than water for hydration?
Water is an excellent tool for hydration, and it is recommended that you get approximately 2 litres a day to sustain healthy bodily functions. This, of course, is increased when you exercise. Although water is recommended in fitness training, drinking a lot of it can also wash the essentials salts from your body that are needed to sustain fitness levels. If you are doing gentle exercise, then water will suffice, but if you are undertaking intensive training, then there is a range of sports drinks available that can help restore fluids and nutrients lost through sweat. Dioralyte may also help with this as it contains rehydration salts.
Be sure to stay away from highly caffeinated energy drinks while exercising, as these will dehydrate you and leave you feeling sluggish after a workout.
Let us leave you with the following from the experts at Cardiff Sports Nutrition;
“A tremendous amount of research has gone into sports supplements and more often than not this is scientifically backed. However, with that said there are some supplements which can mislead people either regard to results or effectiveness. Speaking to an expert in a supplement shop and discussing your exact wants and needs will set you on the correct path and then you tend to find what and when works best for you.”
What else can you do?
Many Doctors agree that one of the key elements of optimal health is regular exercise. What many may not be aware of, however, is the continual process of breakdown and renewal that occurs from doing any form of exercise – especially an athletic type of training. Exercise in itself is fine, but the key to maintaining optimal health is to balance the breakdown and the renewal of the body.
Thankfully, after many years of research, the scientific community has discovered that the body’s ability to renew itself is dependent upon it’s ability to release adult stem cells from the bone marrow. Put simply, the greater your body’s ability to release adult stem cells from the bone marrow, the more efficient your body will be at renewing itself and maintaining optimal health.
Our bodies are designed to naturally balance the breakdown and renewal process. But when this process gets out of balance problems are more likely to occur. This is more evident with athletes, where the constant demands for renewal are more complicated as they are doing more to break down. Getting this balance right, therefore, is critical if athletes want to improve their performances – regardless of whether they are serious or amateur athletes.
As we’ve seen for athletes bodies, they require additional support to maintain the breakdown and recovery balance. Luckily, this additional support is available in the form of stem cell nutrition. In a published clinical study stem cell nutrition has been shown to naturally increase the release of adult stem cells from the bone marrow.
Balance is key.
Sports nutrition and supplements are becoming increasingly popular in all age groups who want to improve gains from their workout. Understanding how they work and getting the balance right in your diet is just part of the bigger picture when improving fitness and may only benefit you personally if you incorporate healthy eating, sufficient exercise and adequate hydration into your lifestyle.
If you’re interested in introducing sports drinks and supplements into your diet to compliment your workout, here are some people’s favourites:
Sharon Lashbrooke from IsaTime says: “My go-to sports supplement would be AMPED NOx. It’s a plant based product that primes my body for exercise by promoting optimal blood flow to my muscles. It’s best used in conjunction with the other AMPED products, but if I had to choose one product, this would be the one I would stick with.”
Stephanie McCurdy, a Gut health & Immunity specialist, says that the Forever Living aloe vera drink is her favourite health supplement. She says: “It is a multivitamin that contains prebiotics, zinc, magnesium, B12, iron, to name a few vitamins and is fantastic for immunity and lowering imflammation in the body. It also helps with digestive, skin and autoimmune defencies. It’s a one stop shop for all your supplement needs!”
Jordan Travers, an Australian holistic health coach, adds: “This really is an individual answer, depending on someone’s goals and current biochemistry. I recommend to consume 10mg/kg bodyweight of Magnesium Glycinate above all else.
“”Almost everyone that I have worked with says that this magic mineral is their favourite supplement. The fourth most abundant mineral in your body, magnesium is the closest thing to the fountain of youth, because it has a calming effect on the nervous system and directly reduces chronic cortisol levels. Supplementation reduces cortisol by actually boosting the hormone di-dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA, which is converted into the anabolic hormone, testosterone.
“Magnesium promotes learning and memory as a result of its beneficial effect on synaptic plasticity and density. Much like zinc, magnesium is responsible for hundreds of different processes in the body which include reducing stress, improving sleep, heart health, increasing bone density, regulating blood sugar, liver detoxification, as well as a positive effect on mood via dopamine.”
“Ideally, you should take 10 mg/kg of body weight (800 mg for an 80 kg person), half at 4 p.m., half at 7 p.m. By supplementing with magnesium,you’re helping to protect yourself against deadly diseases and significantly improve the quality of your life.”
Veronika Larisova, Exercise Physiologist and Nutritionist at Chief Nutrition, concludes that collagen is one of the most important supplements to improve your health and fitness, outlining the following benefits of collagen:
She adds: “Recent research suggestRecent research suggests that collagen could improve age-related joint issues as well as prevent injuries and aid post-injury recovery. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that supplementation with 15g of vitamin C enriched gelatine one hour prior to a specific tendon-training program has lead to a doubled collagen synthesis in the targeted tendons. Other studies have found improved connective tissue structure and function and reduced pain with just 10g of gelatine ingested 30-60 minutes before a workout. The collagen synthesis started to accelerate four hours post workout and maintained for up to 72 hours!!! Based on the research findings, several top sports teams around the world have been trialling this protocol including some high-profile Aussie teams. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from supplementation though. that collagen could improve age-related joint issues as well as prevent injuries and aid post-injury recovery. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that supplementation with 15g of vitamin C enriched gelatine one hour prior to a specific tendon-training program has lead to a doubled collagen synthesis in the targeted tendons. Other studies have found improved connective tissue structure and function and reduced pain with just 10g of gelatine ingested 30-60 minutes before a workout. The collagen synthesis started to accelerate four hours post workout and maintained for up to 72 hours!!! Based on the research findings, several top sports teams around the world have been trialling this protocol including some high-profile Aussie teams. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from supplementation though.
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