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How Sporty Are You?by Dave Foreman
Whether you are a weekend warrior or a world-class athlete, your need for supplementation is critical, perhaps life saving. The purpose of this article is to help you understand what supplements can enhance your workout, decrease injury, repair the body and improve overall health.
Years ago I experienced something that opened my eyes. In my last year of pharmacy school I was finishing my clinical rotations in Greenville, South Carolina at a major hospital. Part of my training was in an oncology unit at the hospital. One day on rounds, we were introduced to a man who was, as I like to say, "on his way to a better place." As we left his room, the doctor turned and said he was amazed that this man got cancer. He was a marathon runner and considered one of the best he knew. "How could someone with that kind of physical fitness get cancer?"
To answer this question we need to understand what happens when we exercise. Going back to my favorite analogy, the body is like a car. If you run your car at 20 miles per hour for an hour it will produce a little exhaust; run it at 100 miles per hour and you'll produce much more exhaust. If you don't vent that exhaust, or neutralize it, your car will begin to operate poorly and, in severe cases, stop running.Your body is the same. Do a ton of exercise and you will produce much more exhaust (free radical damage) than someone who does just 30 minutes of brisk walking per day. It is for this reason I believe the man died of cancer. Perhaps he didn't do anything to neutralize the harmful effects of the exhaust he was producing.Too many times, I run into people who are marathon runners or tri-athletes and their skin is wrinkled; they have poor color, and their hair and nails look horrible. Maybe their body looks fit, but I see beyond that and realize that they are on a collision course to major health challenges.
Inadequate exhaust and poor nutritional choices are the underlying reasons why many professional athletes die earlier than the rest of the population. Since antioxidants are part of the Dietary Supplement Pyramid, we will start there. As mentioned in past newsletters, most of us need a general antioxidant blend to maintain good health. I use New Chapter's Super Critical Antioxidant blend, but for those of you with a particular need, a broad-spectrum antioxidant may not be appropriate.You need to be aggressive with your antioxidant choices and quantities depending on the level of cardiovascular activity you are doing. If you do just 30 minutes per day of cardiovascular activity you can probably get away with a general antioxidant. If you do 1-2 hours or 3-4 hours per day the number of antioxidants and their amounts should increase proportionally. The following are some of my top antioxidant choices for those who do more than just 30 minutes of brisk walking per day.
Vitamin, Mineral, Misc.
Of those listed above, I prefer to use CoQ10 in doses above 200mg on days that I do at least an hour of cardiovascular activity. This helps decrease fatigue during the workout and helps improve/speed recovery time. Other antioxidants such as Turmeric (also found in the combination product Zyflamend®) not only help neutralize free radical damage, they help reduce inflammation. This added benefit helps protect your structural system (muscles, connective tissue, etc.) from damage done during a workout. The bottom line is to make sure you are taking the right amount and type of antioxidants needed to support your specific sports nutrition needs.
KEEP YOUR MUSCLE, BUT BURN THE FAT
Along with fats and carbohydrates, protein is a "macronutrient." The body needs relatively large amounts. However, unlike the other macronutrients (fat and carbohydrates), the body does not store protein. Therefore there's no reservoir. When the amount of protein is not sufficient to meet demands of strenuous exertion, a condition known as nitrogen equilibrium is experienced and a negative nitrogen balance occurs. This is bad news. When you're sick, injured or on a low calorie or poor quality diet, your body tries to fill its nutritional void by cannibalizing itself. This is a process also known as catabolism.The body actually eats its own muscle tissue (heart and lungs included) to extract the amino acids it needs to operate. Protein deficiency can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, insulin resistance, hair loss, loss of hair pigment (hair that should be black becomes reddish), loss of muscle mass, low body temperature, and hormonal irregularities. It can even prove fatal.
Obviously, then, reaching a positive nitrogen balance is highly recommended. Positive nitrogen balance simply means your tissues are getting more protein, and retaining more nitrogen than is being eliminated each day. This state may be achieved by a true health enthusiast, someone who eats correctly all the time and exercises regularly. However, too much protein can cause problems as well. High protein diets, particularly those that emphasize fatty meats, can cause issues with high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and kidney problems. Additionally, there may be issues with toxins related to hormone treatments, antibiotics, or processing. High protein diets have also been linked to liver dysfunction from increased toxic residues and bone loss due to increased acidity in the blood.
SO HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
Nutrition experts recommend that protein, as a source of amino acids, account for 10-12% of the calories in a balanced diet. However, requirements for protein are affected by age, weight, state of health, and other factors. Ideally, according to the Food and Nutrition Board, the folks who set the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA), you should consume 0.36 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. So if you weigh 170 pounds, you need about 61 grams of protein each day. These requirements should be adjusted to your level of activity. I recommend active people consume between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you are cycling for an hour every day, your needs for protein will increase.Your body will need the added protein to repair and maintain the muscles you just used.
WHAT TYPE OF PROTEIN DO YOU NEED?
That is the multi-million dollar question. The answer is, it depends. In an attempt to get protein from better food sources, many have turned to protein supplements. These are increasingly used, not only by athletes, but also by health conscious people of all ages to maintain body health. Most protein supplements contain purified proteins not accompanied by fat, carbohydrates, or other ingredients.The most commonly used sources for supplement proteins are plant proteins like soy, or animal proteins like milk, casein, whey, and egg. Until recently, athletes had to consume their protein several hours in advance of their workout due to the time it takes for the body to digest and absorb the amino acids that make up protein. This digestive process is why most athletes cannot consume protein during their work out. Also, these supplements can cause other problems such as gas, bloating, certain types of allergies and sensitivities. Recently, DSM launched a new protein supplement (PeptoPro®) which is soluble in water, broken down into small particles that can be immediately absorbed and is virtually hypoallergenic. This means that athletes and weekend warriors can use this protein before, during and after working out and get immediate benefits. The ingredient is so new to the US market that it may be a few months before it hits the shelves, but be on the lookout-this product is amazing.
THE MOTHER OF ALL AMINO ACIDS: L-GLUTAMINE
L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. Glutamine performs multiple actions. First it assists the body in moving nitrogen into your muscle cells. L-Glutamine also helps your muscles recover post-workout. When you are participating in strenuous activity, your body is using glutamine more rapidly than it can be produced. This will directly impact your ability to recover and decrease your muscle strength. An added benefit of L-Glutamine is its impact on the immune system.We know that increased activity (30-minutes of brisk walking/day) will improve immune function. Regrettably, too much activity can cause the opposite effect. It is well known that a large portion of marathon runners will get sick soon after running the big race because of the impact extreme activity has on the immune system. I recommend taking 5 grams of L-glutamine two times daily after extended periods of exercise.
MORE MUSCLE AND ENERGY SUPPORT: CREATINE
Creatine (creatine monohydrate) is used in muscle tissue for the production of phosphocreatine, an important factor in the formation of ATP (the source of energy for muscle contraction and many other functions in the body).The body naturally produces Creatine but not in the amounts necessary to support those in high intensity sports and training.Therefore supplementing is needed. Creatine supplementation has been shown to improve performance in short duration, high intensity exercise (weight lifting, cycling, sprinting, etc.) Dosing of Creatine is important. First, you need to consume about 20 grams per day for the first 3-5 days. Once you have achieved your "loading dose", using about 5-10 grams per day should give you the added benefits you want. One word of caution, Creatine may not be well tolerated by the kidneys and digestive system. If you already have problems with kidney function this supplement should be avoided. If you plan to use this supplement daily, I recommend increasing your water intake above the normal 1/2 your body weight in ounces per day to about 2/3s of your body weight (ie. 200 pound person=132 ounces of water/day). Digestively, I have met too may people (especially women) who complain of bloating and even diarrhea from the use of this supplement.
DON'T FORGET YOUR DIETARY SUPPLEMENT PYRAMID
Please refer to my past article, which explains the DSP. For now, let me stress the importance of using a multivitamin-mineral. A calcium blend is even more critical for those who workout more than 30 minutes per day.Your needs are dramatically increased by the added physical activity. As far as I am concerned, you can throw the RDA away. If you are coming up short on your vitamins and minerals you may be headed down the path of poor health. This depletion of nutrients may also impact your athletic performance. Remember, the most important nutrient is the one you are missing. I prefer whole food vitamins from companies like New Chapter, Nature's Plus or even the Vitamin Shoppe Organic Multi. I even recommend a powdered multi OLA LOA for athletic use. This powder easily dissolves in water and is ready for immediate absorption. This is an excellent addition to any pre- or post-workout supplement program.
WATER AS A SUPPLEMENT?
Staying hydrated is very important to our health and wellbeing. As little as a 1 to 2 percent decrease in fluids can lead to difficulty concentrating. A 3 percent decrease in fluids will cause your coordination to decrease as well. Staying hydrated is key to getting the most from your body as well as keeping it healthy. Sweat is the way in which your body cools. In addition to hydrating; we also need to look at Electrolytes. Electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium and chloride, are nutrients that are important for maintaining the body's fluid balance. Since electrolytes are lost through sweat it is important that you replace them regularly. Whether you chose sports drinks, juices or get them through fruits and veggies doesn't matter-- just get them! If you dehydrate and stop perspiring, you are in danger of overheating.
WHAT ABOUT REPAIR AND RECOVERY?
Repair and recovery can mean so many different things when it comes to sports nutrition. Are you trying to repair muscle, ligaments, tendons or are you trying to recover from an injury or from your workout more quickly. Let's boil it down like this: