Posted on by Margo Gladding
The benefits of an active lifestyle are numerous. From weight loss to increased energy, better sleep, disease risk reduction, enhancing mood, strengthening bones and muscles, and improved memory, exercise is key to living a healthy life. Eating a balanced diet and maintaining optimal nutrient levels are important for top athletic performance. Did you know that deficiencies in B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, iron, or low testosterone levels can negatively impact training and recovery?
To gain greater insights into your unique nutrient needs, I highly recommend Village Green’s Athletic Performance Panel. This test provides you with information necessary for you to monitor or enhance your athletic or personal performance. It includes a comprehensive blood work up in addition to vitamin, mineral, hormone, and inflammatory markers. This panel allows you to stay on top of your game by monitoring your athletic fitness on a more sophisticated level.
Important Nutrients for Athletes
I often get asked for recommendations for general nutrients for athletes. The four nutritional supplements that I recommend include fish oil, vitamin D, protein, and electrolytes. Here’s why.
1. Fish oil
Fish oil provides important omega-3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been shown to support lung function, increase muscle growth, and promote blood flow and oxygen delivery to active muscles. Essential fatty acids also support optimal performance by enhancing endurance, improving strength and physical performance, and promoting joint flexibility and mobility. EPA and DHA have also been shown to be beneficial in counteracting exercise-induced inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential because our bodies cannot make them. Therefore, they must be obtained through one’s diet and/or supplementation. Because most Americans consume inadequate amounts of omega-3s in their diet, taking a high-quality, potent fish oil supplement daily, such as Pathway Super Omega-3, is highly recommended.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another nutrient that most individuals are lacking. Studies are continually showing the health benefits of vitamin D, as well as the long-term impacts of deficiency, such as bowel and colon cancer, arthritis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A vitamin D deficiency can also cause suboptimal muscle function and an increased risk of injuries, such as stress fractures.
I highly recommend that everyone have their vitamin D level tested. While most doctors and labs feel that a level of 30 ng/ml is adequate, most integrative medical professionals would agree that an optimal range is somewhere between 50-70 ng/ml. A good place to start for most individuals is taking 2000 IU of vitamin D-3 daily.
Physical activity increases one’s protein needs. Protein is very important for building and maintaining lean body mass. A great way for an active individual to get more protein in his/her diet is to supplement with a protein shake, such as whey protein. Whey protein provides a full spectrum of amino acids and is efficiently absorbed and utilized by the body. And, compared to other protein sources, whey has a high concentration of branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine), which are important for tissue growth and repair. Whey is also rich in sulfur-containing amino acids cysteine and methionine, which help to enhance immune function. In addition, whey protein powder provides glutamine, which is an important amino acid for the synthesis and protection of muscle tissue and supports the integrity of the intestinal lining. If you have a dairy allergy or sensitivity, plant protein powders are a great alternative.
Electrolytes are key minerals, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium that are important cofactors for muscle energy production, nerve function, and neurological function. The body loses electrolytes through sweat during strenuous exercise, and also through urine.
The body needs to keep a constant level of electrolytes for peak performance. Symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance include muscle fatigue, muscle cramping, dizziness, confusion and nausea. Electrolyte formulas can be added to water to support optimal hydration and are best consumed before, during, and after training. Electrolyte supplements are preferred over sports drinks because sports drinks often contain a lot of sugar as well as unhealthy artificial additives and colorings.
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