Food for thought! The role of sports nutrition in obtaining peak performance
Whether you are skiing down moguls, riding down a mountain on a bike or enjoying a vigorous tennis match, you need to function at your peak potential.
The science of sports nutrition is complex and often confusing, but it can be simplified to four basic components: fuelling, refuelling, repairing and recovery.
Our bodies work a lot like a car. It needs fuel to function effectively. All activities use fuel, which is measured in calories and often referred to as energy.
Unfortunately, many of us leave home on a half-full tank or even worse! In order to run effectively, it is important to make sure our fuel tanks are properly filled.
During exercise we must make sure that our immediate-use fuel tanks which are our muscles are properly stocked. The quick-burning fuels our bodies use are
carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice, vegetables, fruit and sugar. When we eat carbohydrates they are converted in the body and stored as muscle glycogen, thus filling
up the fuel tank. Fats in our food are stored in the long-distance fuel tanks – our fat cells. We tap into these reserves when we participate in endurance events.
The first 30 minutes after finishing exercise are crucial for our muscles to replenish their fuel tanks. Glycogen is optimally absorbed by the muscles at this time
with carbohydrate rich foods. Refuelling can continue for up to two hours after exercise.
Along with carbohydrate-rich foods we should also take in high quality protein. Every activity in life damages muscle cells. Of course, the more strenuous the activity or
exercise, the more damage that can occur. Adequate, high quality protein assists muscle cells in repairing themselves. Protein comes in the form of meat, soy
products, cheese and dairy products. However, most of these are in the form of animal proteins, which add greatly to the bad cholesterol in our bodies. Therefore we
need to look for high quality proteins from non-animal sources.
Research suggests that antioxidant nutrients assist in reducing recovery time by helping the body combat free-radical damage. Large amounts of free radicals are created in
several ways during exercise. One way is simply breathing in far more oxygen than we do when resting. Can you consume sufficient fresh seasonal produce (fruits and
vegetables) to compensate for the additional oxygen intake as a sports person. By minimising free radical production, we can potentially reduce the amount of recovery
time needed between events. The bottom line is that we may feel less soreness, stiffness and fatigue. This may lead to more time for practice and playing the
Hydrate, hydrate and re-hydrate! Every adult should be drinking at least 2 litres of pure water, still NOT sparkling, every single day. Whilst exercising we must
replenish those stocks with even more water. Fizzy and carbonated drinks do not allow the cells of our body to absorb nutrients correctly and can easily upset our body’s
Finding the optimum foods to help you in your quest for greater performance is not easy. These days it can be argued that intensive farming, global warming and long
distance travel have depleted our foods of their best nutrition. Supplementation of our foods (diet) has now been proved by governments to provide our bodies with those
essential nutrients that we need on a daily basis to maintain optimum health. What to look for is the best fuel possible which is easy to use, convenient and tastes great!
One of the best ways of taking on board food before and immediately after exercise is in drink form, such as a power-packed shake or smoothie because it is
easier for the body to utilise the nutrition instantly and it doesn’t lie heavily in the stomach. Eating a large meal before or after exercise which gives you all the
correct protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, such as meat, pasta, vegetables and fruit, often leaves you feeling lethargic and in need of a siesta, rather than
energised and ready to go!
Ever wondered why a banana is used between sets? A banana is packed full of natural fruit sugars, which are instantly converted into glucose
which in turn is used by the muscles for immediate fuel. One of Herbalifes shakes offers all the power of a handful of bananas in an instant, which means that you
can fill up your fuel tanks with more power in an easily digestible manner. Try a shake next time and see the difference!
Our bodies are incredible machines. Like any car, carefully maintained and cared for, they will give of their best! The benefits of a fit and healthy body permeate every
aspect of our lives. We owe it to ourselves to experience the ultimate in peak performance.
If this strikes a cord with you and you want to maximise personal sporting performance through nutrition, please take a look at our sports nutrition range.
Article by Herbal Vitality