We start with a food first philosophy when it comes to fueling athletes – informed choices and a well-designed nutrition plan can meet the nutritional needs of most healthy athletes. However, it is often challenging for athletes to design and put into action a complete fueling plan. Time constraints, access to fresh, whole foods and grocery stores, culinary and nutritional knowledge, underestimating the additional demands of sport, recovery, and growth, are all factors that lead many athletes to fall short of the recommended levels of nutrients. We believe with proper education and safeguards such as NSF Certified for Sport, supplements can be an option when food is not available.
An individual’s nutritional needs are as unique as his or her fingerprints, so understanding what causes nutritional needs to be different can help a person choose the best combination of foods and supplements to best meet his or her needs.
Factors influencing energy needs include exercise, recovery, illness, and metabolism, all of which can impact an individual’s calorie prescription. Stress levels, hormone fluctuations, and even environmental pollutants can all alter one’s specific nutrition needs.
Paying careful attention to the nutrient density of daily calories can help identify gaps in nutrient intake, and in these cases, nutritional supplements can be used to complement the diet.
Additionally, there are subsets of athletes that may require supplementation to meet needs that are inadequate for reasons such as health conditions and allergies, religious guidelines, or dietary practices.
The timing and pace of certain sports make in-competition fueling with whole foods to be impossible or improbable; supplemental electrolytes and fuel sources may be preferable in these situations. Other nutrients, such as Vitamin D, are not easily obtained through the diet in adequate amounts. Consequently, taste and food behaviors of athletes tend to make probiotics and fish oil a convenient, and thus more highly acquired source of nutrients than eating adequate amounts of yogurt and omega-3 containing foods.
Due to the state of the current food supply and because very few Americans eat the recommended five daily servings of health-giving fruits and vegetables, many nutrition experts agree that a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement taken daily could help fill the nutrition gap.1
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans do not typically eat a diet that will provide them with all the nutrients they need. By their definition, Americans should be eating 1.5-2 cups of fruit daily and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily.
In 2013, a CDC survey conducted on a state-by-state basis showed that only 13.1 percent of the entire U.S. population met sufficient fruit intake. In this same survey, only 8.9 percent of adults met the recommended daily vegetable intake.
COMMON VITAMIN AND MINERAL DEFICIENCIES IN THE UNITED STATES
A recent report from the CDC revealed some shocking statistics about the nutrient status of Americans. Some of the highlights of the report are:
1.Check Your Foundation
Before anything else, basic human needs must be met. Are you meeting your energy (calories), hydration, and essential vitamin and mineral needs? Take time to assess your total calorie needs and whether your current food choices meet your baseline nutrient needs.
2.Check Your Habits
Are you omitting large food groups from your diet, such as meat, dairy, vegetables, nuts, or grains? Identify which nutrients the missing group contains and then identify other sources of these nutrients.
3.Check Your Gut
“You are what you eat” can be modified to, “ You are what you eat – and what you can absorb.” Support healthy digestion with “good bacteria” from food or probiotics and enzymes that aid in the break down of food.
4. Check Your Activity
As activity increases, the demand for energy and certain nutrients increase. So make sure you account for the extra calories and nutrients to help you maximize your efforts.
5.Check Your Head
The brain requires a lot of energy and nutrients to perform the tasks required of it. Supporting the brain and the nervous system with the necessary nutrients to perform and recover is often overlooked.
6. Check Your Stress Level
Stress comes in many forms – physical (training), environmental (chaotic or loud work environments), metabolic, or emotional. Be aware of sources of stress, the demands it places on your body, how your body responds, and what you can do about it.
7. Check Your Sleep
With a busy schedule, sleep is often sub optimal as a result of poor time management. Travel to and from competition can disrupt normal sleep patterns. While reliance on sleep aids and sedatives is not recommended, science supports strategies to help promote normal sleep and night time recovery. Strategies include protein before bed, limiting electronic screen time, and non-sedative supplements like melatonin when travel or schedule changes disrupt normal sleep schedules.
The more you know about you, the more personal your nutrition and supplement regimen becomes.
A smart supplementation plan can counteract suboptimal food intake, improve your health, reduce injury duration, and promote your quality of life.* Arming yourself with data and information that is personal to you will allow you to truly make sure your fueling regimen is “one size fits one.