2/9/15

Debunk the myth - Do you need sport nutrition?






Remember the time when women were afraid to lift heavy weights for the fear that Schwarzenegger-like muscles would start popping up on the arms, legs and back? 
Well, we all know that women (just like men) need to strength train and for any endurance athlete who is not strength training, it's time to get with the current research that functional strength progressing to dynamic strength training, can improve power, lean muscle mass and help the muscles resist fatigue all to improve endurance "cardio" performance. Strength training is also essential for every-day individuals to buildstrong bones and reduce the risk for fractures at an older age.


 Fitness and nutrition myths are debunked all the time and I'd like to make sure that you are not holding yourself back in your athletic performance by not fueling adequately on the bike.


In recent times, there is a growing (yet still relatively small) number of athletes who are anti-sport nutrition. They boast about how little they consume during a long workout as if it is healthier to consume no/limited amounts of fluids, electrolytes or carbohydrates/sugars during endurance events.  "I only need 1 gel during a 2 hour run. I only consumed water during my 4 hour bike ride. I only need 100 calories per hour in an Ironman."

 I realize there is a large percentage of athletes who do not understand the importance of meeting nutritional needs during endurance activity or get overwhelmed with sport nutrition and need help from a professional (sport RD) to ensure that nutritional needs are being met. So this is not the population I am referring to when it comes to athletes who are purposely underfueling during workouts.

Rather, I see this current trend of athletes feeling as if they don't need sport nutrition (or very little) as if the body will be able to stay energized, powerful and healthy without the nutrients that research has continued to prove does improve performance (and protects the immune system). So this is as another myth that I need to debunk.

 As athletes, shouldn't we be proud of how we fuel our bodies in motion? Rather than seeing sport nutrition as calories, sugars or carbohydrates, see it for what it is....fuel for your body in motion. 

In my career as a sport RD, I never have athletes come to me telling me that they wish they were hungrier in the afternoons to eat an afternoon snack. Instead, I get athletes who talk about their intense sugar cravings or extreme tiredness at 3-5pm and need a pick-me-up snack or even an "energy" drink. I don't hear athletes talking about how easy it is to eat dinner at 6:30-7;30pm and then feel satisfied until bedtime. Instead, I have athletes come to me who are starving in the evenings or can't break the sugar/salty craving habit late in the evening and feel like they can never feel satisfied during the day yet may not have the urge to eat before/after a workout or even drink from a bottle (or take a swig of a gel) during a 2+ hour training session or event. 

There are times when your body needs quick energy and other times when it does not. As athletes, we are not the "normal" population and our bodies require a specific (minimum) amount of fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrate/sugars to meet our physical demands when our bodies are under intense, physiological training stress. 

 If you do not supply your body with these critical nutrients, performance will suffer, health will be compromised or you will not see improvements despite your commitment to your training. And no matter how many times you hear from the athlete who says "You don't need it, I don't need it"....trust me when I say you need to fuel your body in motion because you are likely underfueling your amazing body that you want to get faster, stronger and more powerful.

My easy cycling fueling tips are coming next....stay tuned!