The Basics of Sports Nutrition for Optimal Results

07/12/2022

These days it is understandably confusing for many people that are looking to make positive changes to their health. There are a million different ideas and modalities that are being hocked continuously with increasingly complex marketing strategies designed to suck people in.

The concepts of sports nutrition are very important to anyone that is looking to increase muscle mass and lose bodyfat while keeping high energy levels and optimal immunity from diseases. These are the fundamental and foundational ideas of elite athletes!

But still many people do not pay attention to the small sequential details and assume that working out by itself will do the trick. And most people learn the hard way that you can't out-train a bad diet. This is one reason why many people get frustrated in the gym and fail to see the kind of results that they truly want.

Its important to understand that there are basic things that athletes need more of in order to maintain high performance and health without getting overuse injuries (tendonitis, chronic fatigue, overtraining, etc.). They of course need more fuel in the form of carbohydrates and also more protein to repair muscle and keep their organs healthy. They need more water and more electrolytes to stay hydrated and will have increased needs for many vitamins, minerals and trace metals.

For this reason supplements are generally a must for those that are working out every day and in general being more active. Any sport or activity like cycling is going to require extra nutrients if the person wants to avoid overtraining which can lead to sickness.

I wanted to do this short article on some simple strategies that the average fitness junkie can add to see better results in shorter time. That is more muscle and less bodyfat and better performance.

The first strategy is the most obvious and easiest to do and that is drink a lot more water. I get on the scale before and after my workout and since my goal is weight and muscle gain I actually want to weight the same or more after the workout. Since we lose a lot of water through hard exercise you can easily lose several pounds of water weight during the workout. While this might seem good from the perspective of losing weight, what it usually means is you're just dehydrated. And this is a problem for several reasons.

First off muscle is about 70% or more water in weight. There is also substantial muscle glycogen which is stored carbohydrates in the muscle. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances make it harder to get fuel, nutrients and water into the muscle. I repeat you need to drink a lot of water to add muscle quickly.

When we're dehydrated the muscles become "flat" meaning they lose tone and size. This frustrates people because they not only don't look better in the mirror they actually look worse and that causes demotivation....one of the main points of working out is to look better not worse!

Another aspect of hydration is it involves more than just water. A person can drink plenty of water and still have dehydration at the cellular level because of electrolyte imbalances. The main electrolytes we consider are sodium and potassium, but there are many more such as copper, magnesium, iodine, etc.

As usual, the recommendations about salt from the mainstream medical community are erroneous especially to athletes. There is extremely limited evidence that too much sodium causes hypertension. What salts will do is help to shuttle nutrients into the muscle cells and keep a proper gradient (pressure) on the inside vs the outside of the cell. Fluids only move optimally from inside the cells into the bloodstream and vice versa if the electrolyte ratios of potassium and sodium are maintained.

Since sweating causes a loss of sodium we can see how the problems can arise. Sports drinks can help with this during the workout, but many of these drinks are really just glorified soda. I use our product CR7 (named after Christiano Ronaldo) because it has a small amount of sodium and adequate potassium, along with a little sugar. Adding different salts to the diet throughout the day helps to add muscle as well. I also use Himalayan salt and iodized salts because most table salts are nutrient devoid and processed.

Which leads us to the next point which is knowing when to consume carbohydrates especially simple sugars like glucose and fructose. 

The key with carbohydrates and sports nutrition is mainly an issue of timing. Carbs should be consumed around times that involve exercise or sports. Sitting on the couch, obviously, watching Netflix is NOT an ideal time to consume sugary foods like many Americans have the habit of doing (hence the obesity epidemic). Sugars are for quick fuel and they also store easily, so we can use that to our advantage by using the sugars for fuel during workouts. This is particularly true with intense workouts involving heavy lifting and a high heart rate (my preferred mode of training for optimal results). 

The thing is, your body is constantly using a mixture of fuel from fat, protein and carbs. Depending on the activity one will be used more predominately. At rest the body tends to use more fat for fuel, which can be a confusing concept for people because we tend to think that when we exercise we're burning fat. The truth is in between, but since fat is very efficient and high calorie fuel, it is ideal for low intensity activities...but there won't be a ton of it getting burned. 

When we exercise it can be detected in the breath using special equipment an increase in carbohydrate metabolism....the body is using quick and easy fuel (sugar). 

The goal of a training session in my opinion should not be to burn fat it should be to optimize the workout and hormones that are affected...the fat loss occurs in conjunction with diet throughout the rest of the day.

The better the workout you can get, the better hormone response you elicit....one reason why athletes drink lots of electrolytes during extended sessions. The sugar provides the fuel for the workout and keeps the blood sugar levels stable. People can tell that they have hypoglycemia because they get lightheaded, excessively sweaty, even nauseous. 

So putting these two concepts together we see that an ideal mixture of water, electrolytes and certain sugars can be drank throughout the workout to keep hydrated and keep energy levels high for optimal performance.

When it comes to protein there is a common mistake people make in the gym and that is undereating throughout the day and then attempting to backload the protein after the workout. They haven't eaten enough through the day and try and cram 70 grams of protein after the workout. This is suboptimal. Sure, you need protein after the workout but its way better for performance and overall health to consume protein periodically throughout the day. Think of protein as the constant in a math equation...its being consumed in small doses every couple of hours. The carbohydrates are concentrated around the workout time so they aren't stored as fat.

Then there is fat. First off, dietary fat is not anything close to stored bodyfat. They are not the same. In fact, consuming quite a bit of healthy fats is one of the staples of my diet. The more fat you eat to an extent the more your body will want to use it as fuel. Think of the idea of the overweight person eating sugar on the couch earlier. If you're consuming tons of sugars like many people are, your body is going to prefer it for fuel...you end up burning off carbs and storing fat. 

Healthy fats are useful for a lot of reasons that can help performance and overall health. These fats maintain healthy hair, nails, eyes, bones, and skin. They also help keep the digestive tract healthy which will allow the body to assimilate more nutrients into the muscle and burn more fat. A healthy digestive tract is crucial to health and we have an epidemic of digestion related problems, some of which are from inadequate fat intake, especially omega-3s (fish oils). And guess what often times shows up as the problem area? Hair, skin, brittle nails, eye problems. See the connection here?

Healthy fats, not trans fats, help keep your brain sharp and help with hormone creation....especially testosterone. High test levels are a hallmark of sports performance and other things like sex drive.

There are lots of strategies and supplements to help sports performance including creatine, testosterone boosters, caffeine, and whole slews of other molecules. Different varieties of proteins can be found and also amino acids which are easier to break down and absorb as protein.

The person that is serious about their fitness, looks and health should spend some time studying these different strategies. But the ones I outlined here are a good stable foundation for muscle gain and fat loss. To review:

1) drinking plenty of water, throughout the day and especially during activities, and supplementing different salts and electrolytes

2) keeping protein consistent throughout the day and avoiding huge gaps in eating followed by huge protein rich meals....consistent small to medium size meals should suffice

3) consuming carbohydrates around activity times and keeping them somewhat lower throughout the rest of the day. Use the carbs and sugars to fuel your workouts and activities.

4) eating healthy fats for brain and gut health as well as skin, hair, nails and bone

Basically we're switching the idea of working out as we see it to increased performance which means better movements, better cardio, more strength, higher volume of training over time and increased metabolism which will all lead to increased muscle and by default lower bodyfat.

Feel free to contact me at benhetzeltraining@gmail.com for more information on different resources, supplements I use and ways to save money on your products, or to schedule a coaching session.

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