The field of sports nutrition is vast. Personalised performance nutrition can be super confusing with so many options to choose from.
This blog dives into the following:
- The basics for you to be optimal
- What is the ultimate approach
- Research and the future in sports nutrition
It can be all too easy to get it wrong or spend a fortune on a quick fix, or several!
I see this every day in my clinic and also when I provide nutritional advice to followers on my fitness friend Caroline Girvan’s Facebook page in my Sunday live 1-hour session.
As I have been involved in the world of Nutrition and health for over 25 yrs, including successfully working with athletes for the commonwealth games and Olympics, I love looking forward to what new ideas are ahead.
Sports Nutrition – First things first
Some background advice on getting you optimized!
No point in not having the basics nailed….So.
Know that you have to adopt a balanced real food approach that is nutrient-rich, otherwise, you will be disappointed with the amount of training, supplements or protein powder you pack in. These alone will not fix your physique or do anything for your health.
80% of success IS nutrition but the biggest part of this is consistency – whether it is counting macros, intermittent fasting, keto, the cabbage soup or Atkins these are all names of various dietary restrictions either by changing timings, altering nutrient intake e.g. fats or increasing fluids to reduce hunger etc but all in all they point to a kcal deficit to be successful.
Are they successful – Sadly not all, and if they are they are often short-lived. I see many many hundreds of desperately miserable people doing everything they can to follow these restrictions. They may start well and see some changes but when something is too difficult, things slip and the feeling of failure can occur. I am firmly against this as Yo-Yo -dieting decreases energy expenditure, increases energy intake, and impairs brain-periphery communication.
The Ultimate sports nutrition approach
What many people HATE me telling them AND what works for the majority for the longterm is.
Clever intuitive eating
It is important to get the right mindset for this. You need to know that your body is not determined by numbers but by genetics, emotions, your food and life choices and all these interact with your overall diet and health.
Bizarrely the belief that “no pain no gain” and a strict impossible plan is the answer, pushing the responsibility to someone else -and how many times do I hear the list of people that one person has taken a plan from and when it doesn’t work – it all stops and food becomes the comforter again.
It’s true if you are totally confused by the past 30 yrs of inaccurate nutritional info, being able to choose your own nutrient-rich meals, snacks, fluids, party foods etc that are not on a strict plan can be overwhelming. If this is you then it may be worth working with someone (a nutrition expert) for a while, just to make sure you know what is necessary for you and you are able to enjoy it for the long term. That’s what we love and are experts in!
Training to see ripped muscles takes far longer for many than they anticipate. As a beginner hypertrophy (building muscle) can be more difficult to achieve as the body is making neural adaptations. Progress and increasing strength allows for muscular growth but it does take time and patience.
And finally – sufficient fluid intake and the types consumed are definitely overlooked. Fluid and enough fluid is critical to prevent dehydration, overheating causing confusion, low energy, and mood change, and also if ongoing can link to constipation and kidney stones.
The Future of Sports Nutrition Research
So what’s out there? It’s always a buzz to know brand-new areas are emerging with exciting products. Companies are more and more using science to optimize performance and especially important post-COVID with the resurgence in exercise, the gym and the importance of getting and staying healthy.
Everyone wants to build muscle right? Well, when I was starting out 25yrs ago that was not the case and it used to be for a few men in the gym and for really beefing up it was just a select few bodybuilders in competitions!
Now we know that building muscle at all stages of life is mega important. Research into the physiology of improving muscle mass and strength is massive! While protein is the most important in terms of dietary supplementation, other researched ingredients include nitrogen oxides, nitrates, and creatine and these are used by millions daily. Carnosine and beta-alanine are also on the radar in muscle physiology research and may certainly be in some of your cupboards already!
Carnosine is a naturally forming dipeptide (two linking amino acids beta-alanine and histidine) specifically found in the tissues of the body when they are active. Carnosine is also located in the heart, brain, and other parts of the body and is known to improve muscle strength and performance during exercise.
Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that supports the synthesis of muscle carnosine in the body. It is known to delay the onset of muscle fatigue and failure and is found in foods such as certain meat turkey, chicken, beef, pork and fish.
It combines with the amino acid histidine to form the dipeptide called carnosine. This helps delay the onset of lactic acid and muscle fatigue and failure while building endurance and improving recovery.
We know water is the best fluid to drink before exercise. Drinking 2-3 litres per day depending on your requirements is perfect especially if your activity is less than one hour. However, if you exercise for longer an isotonic sports drink with carbohydrates and sodium, and possibly potassium, calcium, and magnesium before and during exercise can be beneficial. There are gazillions out there – SOS is a decent one to consider.
For those over 18, the following Erdinger alcohol-free beer is now being marketed for those looking for a new isotonic-style drink! Not sure what it tastes like but didn’t expect beer to be in this arena!
Research into hydration to optimize sports and exercise performance is pushing on and researchers are now focusing on aspects such as pre-workout hydration strategies and ways to self-assess hydration status, so this will be interesting to see what happens in this space as we already have well-used tools of pre and post body weight, urine volume, colour and specific gravity….
A special area close to my heart is gut health so it’s wonderful that sports nutrition researchers are investigating gut microbiota in relation to immunity and gastrointestinal health.
Gut microbiota can harvest energy, produce bioactive metabolites, and influence the body’s physiology in many ways including nutrient and vitamin metabolism, inflammatory modulation, immune system function, and improving overall health. One of the many that I recommend for my patients is Alflorex .
We have known for several years Akkermansia muciniphila is found in high numbers among athletes and is associated with a lower risk of metabolic disease. Researchers are looking at the role of exercise in shaping gut microbiota composition, as well as the potential of finding an optimal health-associated gut microbiota. The ultimate goal in sports – decrease recovery time and improve athletic performance!
In my years of putting dietary programmes together – mental health improves when you get the individual absorbing the correct nutrients, and fluids, along with optimal movement and rest. Additional life stresses can certainly be handled better.
New products are plentiful in this arena and from the trends, the focus is on natural herbs, mushrooms and CBD.
Adaptogens also like ashwaganda being a great all-rounder for sports and brain performance, immune health, muscle, sleep, and fertility…..
It is fab to know that this area is being researched for sport as I fear so many people rely on medication and miss the food and natural route.
Sports nutrition products can offer benefits, such as optimal gains from training, increased recovery between workouts and events, maintenance and achievement of ideal body weight, reduced injury risk, and performance improvement and consistency. In combination, these allow for the motivated to keep going and see results.
You may have your nutrition already dialled in but are in need of body recompositioning for you may be completely new to the world of exercise. Either way, Caroline Girvan is the fitness guru you need in your life. Her programmes have helped millions around the world so do check her out.
If you are unsure of how to change your eating habits or need help optimising the foods you eat please do contact us.
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