The problem with using a sports supplement to supplement your diet with more protein, more carbs or just more calories is that in general it is better to consume all your vital nutrients from your daily diet. This is because your body recognises a natural whole food item and will break it down into its component parts which will be absorbed more quickly and easily. Plus, an ‘overdose’ of protein / carbs may have exactly the opposite effect desired. You may end up storing fat rather than improving muscle strength.
How much carbohydrate, protein and fat should I be eating?
The macronutrient daily kcal ratio for the average person who is a regular exerciser would be:
- 50-55% carbs
- 30-35% fats
- 10-15% protein
As an athlete in training (a person who regularly trains for more than 3 hours a day), this ratio could be altered a little, under advice from a nutritionist. This could be amended to look more like this:
- 55-60% carbs
- 20-25% fats
- 15-20% protein
There is absolutely no need to consume any more protein than this. An excess of protein will have adverse effects, including:
- Excess protein will not be utilised by the body, it will need to be broken down into its amino acids to remove the nitrogen from the body.
- Because of this, urine infections are common due to the overexposure of nitrogen to the kidneys.
- The remaining amino acids will be converted to fat and then stored.
- Lack of energy. Too much protein equals not enough carbohydrates and will lead to an energy deficiency.
(See my Carbs blog for further into on these essential nutrients).
High Intensity Prolonged Exercise
It is true that as an athlete more protein may be recommended. However as I have mentioned above, this isn’t as much as you may believe. An athlete in training for competition, whether a bodybuilder, weightlifter, endurance athlete training for a marathon or the Tour de France would only need a maximum 5% extra protein within their diet. Any more than this is detrimental to health and performance. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the body and without these any person, athlete or not, will struggle to maintain the energy required for living, let alone training!
What about if I have a competition coming up?
There are various supplements on the market all recommending you buy their product. As there are no current legal requirements in the UK (or in the USA) for regulating the ingredients of these products – or indeed for even advising of ALL the ingredients, I would advise the use of the following two supplements only:
Body building / Weightlifting
Creatine – This is the most effective supplement, which has been proven in proper scientific trials that it may be of use to the bodybuilder, weight or power lifter. This is because it generates creatine phosphate, which is an immediate high energy supply to the muscles. It improves performance and recovery and due to this it MAY improve muscle growth.
The bad news is:
- It isn’t recommended for supplementation of periods of longer than 28 days at a time.
- It can take time to enter in to the body and CAFFEINE PREVENTS THE ERGONOMIC EFFECTS OF THIS SUPPLEMENT.
- Therefore, avoiding caffeine (tea, coffee, chocolate, green tea, cola, some sports drinks and gels) for a minimum of 7 days before taking creatine is recommended.
- Avoiding caffeine for the duration of taking the supplement is essential.
Endurance / Triathlon / Marathon training
Caffeine has proven to improve concentration, alertness and focus therefore improving performance in long distance events.
The bad news is that caffeine has a number of detrimental effects if too much is consumed, such as:
- As caffeine is a stimulant, it acts as a psychoactive drug, resulting in changes in perception, mood, consciousness and behaviour.
- Insomnia, too much caffeine will result in loss of sleep. This will result in loss of time for muscles to repair and regenerate, decreasing performance.
- Diuretic, a drug that elevates the rate of bodily urine excretion. This can lead to dehydration if the fluid is not replaced.
Sports drinks / gels
If you are regularly training for periods of longer than an hour, then an isotonic sports drink may be of benefit. This is because it will replace fluid as well as fuel. The Gels can be of use when in the middle of a triathlon, however they need to have adequate fluid taken along side them in order for them to work effectively.
As a normal, regular exerciser there is little benefit of consuming sports drinks or gels and consumption of these will only add unwanted calories. These calories will then need to be burnt off again. Which is why they are marketed to gyms and fitness centres.
For further information on supplements and their efficacy, please see the spreadsheet I have prepared attached to this link:
The information contained within this document is referenced by the major governing bodies within the UK and the US for Sports and Athletes. Fur further information, click the link below. If WADA cannot answer your question, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to share my research with you.
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