Sports Supplements

Sports Supplements

Sports Supplements

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Whether you are a weekend warrior or a world class athlete, your needs for additional supplementation is critical and perhaps life saving. Yes, life saving! The purpose of this feature article is to help you understand what supplements you can use to enhance your workout, decrease injury, repair the body and improve your overall health.

Years ago I experienced something that until only a few years ago actually made sense to me. In my last year of pharmacy school I was finishing my clinical rotations in Greenville South Carolina at a major hospital. Part of my training was in an oncology unit at the hospital. One day on rounds, we were introduced to a man who was as like to say “on his way to a better place”. As we left his hospital room, the doctor doing rounds turned and said he was amazed that this man could have gotten cancer. He was a marathon runner and considered to be one of the best he ever knew. “How could someone with that kind of physical fitness get cancer?”

That is a great question, BUT if you go back to my 4-Pillars of Great Health, activity is only 1 of the 4-Pillars which are all equal parts. You need to have balance in your life in order to truly be healthy. What is even more important is to understand what you are truly doing to your body when you place it under that much activity. Going back to my favorite analogy, the body is like a car. If you run your car at 20 miles per hour for an hour it will produce a little exhaust-true? If you run the same care at 100 miles per hour your will produce an extreme amount of exhaust-true? If you don’t vent that exhaust-or neutralize it-your car will begin to run poorly and in severe cases stop running completely. Your body is the same way. If you do a ton of exercise, you will produce much more exhaust (free radical damage) than someone who does just 30 minutes of brisk walking per day. It is for this reason that I believe the man died of cancer. Perhaps he didn’t do anything to neutralize the harmful effects of the exhaust he was producing. Too many times, I run into people who are marathon runners or tri-athletes and their skin is wrinkled, poor color, hair and nails look horrible and just don’t look healthy. Maybe their body looks fit, but I see beyond that picture and realize that they are on a collision course to major health challenges.

I think the above reasoning and other poor nutritional choices are the underlying link to why so many professional athletes die earlier than the rest of the population. Since antioxidants are part of the Dietary Supplement Pyramid, we will start there. As mentioned in past newsletters, most of us need a general antioxidant blend to maintain good health. I use New Chapter’s Super Critical Antioxidant blend, but for those of you with a particular special need, a broad spectrum antioxidant may not be right for you. With regards to sports nutrition, you need to go beyond taking just a broad spectrum antioxidant. You need to be aggressive with your antioxidant choices and quantities depending on the level of cardiovascular activity you are doing. If you do just 30 minutes per day of cardiovascular activity you can probably get away with a general antioxidant. If you do 1-2 hours per day or 3-4 hours per day the number of antioxidants and amounts of each will increase proportionally.

The following antioxidants are some of my top choices for those of you who do more than just 30 minutes of brisk walking per day.

Vitamin, Mineral, Misc.

  • CoQ10
  • Selenium
  • C
  • E
  • Zinc
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • L-Cysteine


  • Green Tea
  • Turmeric
  • Grape seed Extract
  • Ginkgo Biloba

This list could go be much larger. Of those listed above, I prefer to use CoQ10 in doses above 200mg on days that I do at least an hour of cardiovascular activity. This helps decrease fatigue during your workout and helps to improve/speed your recovery time. Other antioxidants such as Turmeric (also found in the combination product Zyflamend®) not only help neutralize free radical damage, but also help reduce inflammation. This added benefit will help protect the majority of your Structural system (muscles, connective tissue, etc.) from damage done during your workout. The bottom line is to make sure you are taking the right amount and type of antioxidants needed to support your sports nutrition needs.

Keep your muscle-burn the fat
Along with fats and carbohydrates, protein is a “macronutrient,” meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals, which are needed in only small quantities, are called “micronutrients.” But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply. When protein intake is adequate to meet our normal daily requirements and no more, a condition known as nitrogen equilibrium is experienced. When one is deprived of adequate protein, negative nitrogen balance occurs. Negative nitrogen balance is bad news. When you’re sick, injured or on low calorie or poor quality diet, your body tries to fill its nutritional void by cannibalizing itself, a process also known as catabolism. The body actually eats its own muscle tissue (heart and lungs included) to extract the amino acids it needs to operate. Protein deficiency can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, insulin resistance, hair loss, loss of hair pigment (hair that should be black becomes reddish), loss of muscle mass, low body temperature, and hormonal irregularities. Severe protein deficiency can be fatal.

I recommend trying to reach a positive nitrogen balance. Positive nitrogen balance simply means your tissues are getting more protein, and retaining more nitrogen than is being eliminated daily. This state may be achieved by a true health enthusiast, someone who eats correctly all the time and exercises regularly. However, too much protein can cause problems as well. High protein diets, particularly those that emphasize fatty meats, can cause issues with high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and kidney problems. Additionally, there may be issues with toxins related to hormone treatments, antibiotics, or processing. High protein diets have also been linked to liver dysfunction from increased toxic residues and bone loss due to increased acidity in the blood.

So how much is enough?
Obviously, achieving a balance is crucial, so what are the latest recommendations on protein consumption? Nutrition experts recommend that protein, as a source of amino acids, should account for 10–12% of the calories in a balanced diet. However, requirements for protein are affected by age, weight, state of health, and other factors. Ideally, you should consume 0.36 grams of protein for every pound of body weight, according to Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) set by the Food and Nutrition Board. So if you weigh 170 pounds, you need about 61 grams of protein each day. These requirements will change based on your type of activity. I recommend consuming anywhere from 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Your body needs more calories to support or maintain your ideal weight when you are participating in regular activity. For example: If you are cycling for an hour every day, your needs for more protein will increase. Your body will need the added protein to help repair and maintain the muscles that you just used for that activity. Without proper protein intake, your body will not have the tools it needs to take care of itself.

What type of protein do you need?
That is the multi-million dollar question. It depends?? In an attempt to get protein from better food sources, many individuals have turned to protein supplements. These supplements are increasingly used not only by athletes, but also by health conscious people of all ages to maintain a healthy body. Most protein supplements contain purified proteins not accompanied by fat, carbohydrates, or other ingredients. The most commonly used sources for supplement proteins are plant proteins like soy protein or animal proteins like the milk proteins, casein and whey, or egg protein. Until recently, athletes had to consume their protein several hours in advance of their workout due to the time it takes for the body to digest and absorb the amino acids that make up protein. This digestive process is why most athletes cannot consume protein during their work out. Also, these supplements can cause other problems such as gas, bloating and other types of allergies and sensitivities. Recently, DSM launched a new protein supplement (PeptoPro®) which is soluble in water, broken down into small particles that can be immediately absorbed and is virtually hypoallergenic. This means that athletes and weekend warriors can use this protein before, during and after working out and get immediate benefits. The ingredient is so new to the US market that it may be a few months before it hits the shelves, but be on the lookout.-this product is amazing.

The mother of all amino Acids!! l-Glutamine
l-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. Glutamine has multiple actions in the body. First it assists the body in moving nitrogen into your muscle cells. L-Glutamine is also helpful at helping you muscles recover post-workout. When you are participating in strenuous activity, your body is using glutamine more rapidly than it can be produced. This will directly impact your ability to recover and decrease your muscle strength. An added benefit of l-Glutamine is its impact on the immune system. We know that increased activity (30-minutes of brisk walking/day) will improve immune function. Regretfully, too much activity can cause the opposite effect. It is well known that a large portion of marathon runners will get sick soon after running the big race because of the impact that much activity had on their immune system. I recommend taking 5 grams of L-Glutamine two times daily after extended periods of exercise.

More Muscle and energy support-Creatine
Creatine (creatine monohydrate) is used in muscle tissue for the production of phosphocreatine-an important factor in the formation of ATP- the source of energy for muscle contraction and many other functions in the body. The body naturally produces Creatine but not in the amounts necessary to support those in high intensity sports and training and therefore supplementing is needed. Creatine supplementation has shown to improve performance in short duration, high intensity exercise (weight lifting, cycling, sprinting etc.) Dosing of Creatine is important-First, you need to consume about 20 grams per day for the first 3-5 days. Once you have achieved your “loading dose”, using about 5-10 grams per day should give you the added benefits you want. One word of caution, Creatine may not be well tolerated by the kidneys and digestive system. If you already have problems with kidney function this supplement should be avoided. If you plan to use this supplement daily, I recommend increasing your water intake above the normal ½ your body weight in ounces per day to about 2/3s of your body weight. (ex. 200 pound person=132 ounces of water/day) Digestively, I have met too may people (especially women) who complain of bloating and even diarrhea from the use of this supplement.

Don’t forget your Dietary Supplement Pyramid
I won’t beat a dead horse here. Please refer to my past article describing what the DSP is. For now, let me stress the importance of using a multivitamin-mineral and a Calcium blend is even more critical for those who workout more than 30 minutes per day. Your needs are dramatically increased by the added physical activity. As far as I am concerned, you can throw the RDA away. If you are coming up short on your vitamins and minerals you may be headed down the path of poor health. This depletion of nutrients may also impact your athletic performance. Remember, the most important nutrient to your body is the one you are missing. I prefer whole food vitamins from companies like New Chapter, Nature’s Plus or even Vitamin Shoppe Organic Multi are excellent choices. I even recommend a powdered multi OLA LOA for athletic use. This powder easily dissolves in water and is ready for immediate absorption. This is an excellent addition to any pre or post workout supplement program.

Water as a supplement??
Staying hydrated is very important to our health and wellbeing. As little as a 1 to 2 percent decrease in fluids can lead to difficulty concentrating. A 3 percent decrease in fluids will cause your coordination to decrease as well. Staying hydrated is key to getting the most from your body as well as keeping it healthy. Sweat is the way in which your body cools In addition to hydrating; we also need to look at Electrolytes. Electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium and chloride, are nutrients that are important for maintaining the body’s fluid balance. Since electrolytes are lost through sweat it is important that you replace them regularly. Whether you chose sports drinks, juices or get them through fruits and veggies doesn’t matter-Just get them! If you dehydrate and stop perspiring, you are in danger of overheating.

What about Repair and Recovery?
Repair and recovery can mean so many different things when it comes to sports nutrition. Are you trying to repair muscle, ligaments, tendons or are you trying to recover from an injury or from your workout more quickly. Let’s boil it down like this:

Protein- Muscle repair
Arnica-Sprains and Strains
L-carnitine (L-Carnipure®) – Muscle recovery
Bromelain- Muscle, Joint inflammation and bruising
Glucosamine Sulfate- Connective tissue repair and maintenance
CoQ10- Muscle Recovery
Horse chestnut- Muscle inflammation, damage
Cayenne- topical application promotes healthy circulation and pain reduction
Fish Oil- Inflammation, pain and Joint Health
AKG (alpha-ketoglutarate)- healing of muscle tissue.
Magnesium- decrease Muscle Cramps
L-Arginine- Muscle repair

This list can get a bit crazy. There are an abundance of supplements that can help with repair and your recovery time. Consult with your health enthusiast for the product that is right for you. It is essential to treat the body with care. Diet-how you eat-is critical in repair and recovery. With not enough protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates, the body will not run properly and can be damaged.

Remember, there are 4 Pillars of Great Health, how you eat, think, workout and supplement will play a huge roll in your overall health and performance. This applies for those who are weekend warriors or the professional athlete. Just as with many health challenges, starting with the Dietary Supplement Pyramid is key. Leaving off your Multivitamin/mineral, Calcium +D can and will contribute to poor health and performance. You can’t expect to just take antioxidants and your special needs supplements and get the bang you want out of your sports nutrition supplements. Follow the DSP and you will see huge improvements in whatever your sport or activity is.