During last year’s Athens Classic Marathon, more than 35.000 people run the classic route, achieving a participation record. This number is the proof that Greeks are becoming active and more health conscious, compared to several years ago when 9 out of 10 were exercising less than 2 hours per week.
Even though food is the primary source of nutrients, there are 2 reasons why a runner would choose a dietary supplement:
- First of all, it is impossible even for the most disciplined athlete to follow the ideal diet 7 days a week, 30 days a month. Even more so, when we are talking about micronutrients, or nutrients that foods contain in “micro” (the Greek word for small) quantities.
- Secondly, runners have greater needs than inactive people, for the simple reason that their body is using up more energy and nutrients. The higher the intensity of the exercise, the greater the nutrient demands.
Need No1: Energy Now
Coenzyme Q10: Carbohydrates from food might be the main source of energy for the body. However there is an extended list of natural ingredients to complete the energy provided from carbs. In the energy production chain, coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) holds a key role, which means that supplementation with Q10 could improve endurance and performance for runners.
B complex vitamins: The B complex family consists of 8 distinct vitamins and each one of those catalyzes major metabolic procedures in the human body. B complex deficiency has been reported in athletes who follow restricted diets in order to lose weight. This family of vitamins supports new cell production and repair, promoting recovery from a run.
Caffeine: This substance is a well known stimulant. Studies have shown that consumption of 100- 200mg of caffeine prior to a short distance race could improve performance, mainly by boosting mood and concentration.
Iron: Low iron stores, usually presented with fatigue, is common among women athletes of reproductive age. Not to exclude the possibility of men having iron deficiency anemia. Anemia can be easily detected and corrected with proper supplementation.
Need No 2: Proper hydration
Water & electrolytes: Water replacement is one of the most important needs for athletes, who need approximately 1 glass of water every 15- 20 minutes of exercise. Post- exercise replacement depends on how perfusingly an athlete sweats. On average for every kilogram lost, the athlete should compensate with 3 glasses of water. Exhaustion and muscle fatigue are among the first symptoms of dehydration. Moreover, deep rehydration of cells requires provision of the elements diluted in our body fluids, well known as electrolytes. Electrolytes should be provided after long lasting training sessions, to prevent low sodium levels (hyponatremia).
Need No3: Support body structure
Magnesium: Muscles support body movement, fighting for most of the energy during physical activity. Magnesium’s role is to coordinate muscle contraction, while scientific data show that many athletes fall short of this micronutrient. Magnesium has a dual function in the body, by promoting energy production. Muscle cramps are the most common and painful symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Calcium and vitamin D: Skeletal muscle carries all the body weight when training, thus it is necessary to support bone health. Calcium is the number one nutrient stored in bone tissue. Its levels should be maintained either through diet or through dietary supplements. Vitamin D is equally important as calcium for bones, because it is necessary for the latter’s absorption in the human gut. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation should be considered in:
- People with low dairy consumption or on a diet.
- Older adults.
Glucosamine & chondroitine: Joints, the sac where two bones meet in the body, absorb most of the vibrations when running. Glucosamine & chondroitine provide structure to the joint, improve its functionality and reduce pain in worn out joints.
Need No 4: Muscles & free radicals
Antioxidants: Growing evidence proves that muscle fatigue can be partially attributed to increased free radical production during exercise. Lower levels of radicals can be naturally neutralized by endogenous antioxidant mechanisms; however these are not enough when great work load is placed on muscles.
This additional demand for antioxidants is covered through dietary ingredients such as turmeric, vitamins C and E and Q10. Even more of an antioxidant potential is attributed to the phytonutrients of the Mediterranean fruits and vegetables, which very few people consume in the recomemded amounts. Even though antioxidant capacity is not a priority for athletes, dietary supplements with phytonutrients are gaining more proponents as they are claimed to reduce pre- and post- workout muscle tension.
The athletes want it all!
Reading the review above one realizes that all needs are equally important to athletes. Who could claim that hydration is more important than bone health? Or that a runner requires energy, but not antioxidants to reduce muscle fatigue?
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