The Benefits of Sports Nutrition
Sports Nutrition can be a confusing and daunting addition to your daily regimen. Do I need them? What’s the best kind of protein? What are BCAA’s? How do I support muscle recovery after exercise? I’m not an athlete, can I still benefit? These kinds of questions are common and my intention is to help make your decision a little easier and give you a basic understanding of the type of regimen that may be helpful for you.
Everyone is different with regards to fitness level, intensity, age, and personal goals. Not everyone will require additional supplementation beyond a basic whey protein. Some however, may benefit from such sports nutrition as Glutamine, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), Creatine, or Weight Gainers. Whether you’re a serious athlete, a beginner, or a weekend warrior, sport supplementation can give you energy during exercise, and help you recover for your next session.
Let’s start with the basics: protein. Everyone benefits from it; it is essential to life. It is necessary for muscle recovery and rebuilding, cellular renewal, and energy. Even though you may be consuming enough protein in your daily diet, additional supplementation with whey protein is beneficial to the recovery process after exercise. Whey protein has one of the highest biological values (BV) of all proteins. This means that it is absorbed and utilized by the body more efficiently and effectively than other types of protein. This is crucial to your hungry muscles after exercise. Whey isolate has a higher BV than whey concentrate, however, they both have their benefits. Isolates are the purest, they have no fat, no lactose, and no carbs. There is more protein per serving in an isolate and they are best consumed post workout for maximum absorption. Whey concentrate is not as pure, it is slightly higher in fat, contains lactose, and has less protein per serving. Concentrates do contain more immune enhancing immunoglobulins and lactoferrin, plus the potent liver antioxidant glutathione. Concentrates are considered more of a whole food and are a great addition to your morning smoothie. Whey blends that include both concentrate and isolate are great because you get the benefits of both: higher BV and immune support. Protein supplementation with whey powders should be the foundation of a healthy effective recovery to your individual exercise program.
Glutamine is an essential amino acid that the body can produce from other amino acids contained in the diet. This is the most common free amino acid in our muscle cells. It is necessary for the immune function of the cells and proper recovery of muscle tissue. Glutamine levels drop dramatically after long or intense exercise, so it is very important to give our body the building blocks necessary to restore these levels. Supplementing with glutamine is the most effective way to do this, especially if used after exercise away from other sources of protein and preferably with some type of carbohydrates. Glutamine is especially important for hardy athletes, such as marathon runners. Studies show that those who take glutamine after start-up significantly reduce the risk of developing an upper respiratory infection. It is also effective in reducing muscle breakdown while enhancing muscle recovery and is great for those who are lifting weights. Regardless of what you do, glutamine can be a great tool in the recovery process that helps you stay healthy for many workouts.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids so we must obtain them through our diet. They are a set of three, and include: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs can be used directly by our muscle cells as fuel. This is especially important when muscle glycogen stores have been depleted and the body is running out of energy. BCAAs can be a saving grace for those athletes on a weight loss program who are consuming inadequate carbohydrates. Instead of consuming extra carbs, they can supplement with BCAAs to fuel their workout. This is most effective for aerobic activities such as running or cycling. BCAAs also promote protein synthesis and increases recovery post exercise whether your engaging in aerobic training or resistance training. BCAAs are naturally found in whey protein but can also be taken on their own to enhance the absorption and effect.
Creatine is a compound that can be made in the body from other amino acids, it is also found in meat and fish, and can be taken in supplement form. Creatine is well known as an anabolic aid to weight lifters. It increases muscle mass and allows for a stronger more intense workout. Creatine is ideal for those who engage in high intensity short burst activities such as resistance training, sprinting, or football. It’s main mode of action is to draw water into muscle cells, thickening the fibres and stimulating protein synthesis, thus increasing lean muscles tissue. Creatine is specifically involved in the anaerobic (without oxygen) energy cycle within our cells and thus does not benefit the endurance athlete who requires energy through the aerobic (with oxygen) cycle. Because creatine draws water into our cells it is important to take in extra fluids while supplementing to avoid dehydration, muscle cramping, and gastrointestinal upset. Creatine can be a great performance enhancer but needs to be dosed properly, and should be cycled effectively to give your body a break.
Weight Gain formulas are popular among those who are looking to add muscle mass to their bodies either for competition or as a personal goal. Resistance training is required for this type of weight gain and extra calories are a necessity. You must consume more calories than are required to simply maintain weight. Weight Gain powders are a convenient way to add in those extra calories without having to sit down and eat huge meals. These formulas typically consist of a balanced ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They take the guess work out of meal planning. If your goal is to gain mass than a weight gain formula would ideally be consumed between meals and post workout.
We are all individuals, our bodies are unique and we require differing amounts of nutrients to keep ourselves in optimal health. Your personal goals, type of exercise, frequency, and intensity, will determine the appropriate supplementation for you. Starting with the basics by using a whey protein powder is an excellent addition to a healthy active lifestyle. Adding in extras can enhance recovery and maximize your performance. Whether it is weight loss, weight gain, speed, or strength, sport supplements can further your goals and leave you in top shape.
Of course, the most important thing that needs to be taken into account before taking sports nutrition is that each organism is individual, and such actions may entail serious consequences, therefore, it is desirable to firstly undergo a medical examination. It is also necessary to remember that sports nutrition should not completely replace the entire diet, food should be varied.