Serious or Competitive Athletes

Serious or Competitive AthletesPart 1Energy Production

Serious Athlete–Part 1 (Download PDF)

by Dr. Ray Strand, M.D.

drstrandThis article is focused on energy production within the cell and is primarily aimed at the serious or competitive athlete. However, this information is also critical for anyone who has an exercise program. So much has been written in the literature about the use of high-glycemic carbohydrates as the key for those competitive athletes. I am going to present cutting-edge information in regards to the best way to nourish your body to optimize performance and recovery. Even though there are not many clinical trials that have used low-glycemic meals in athletes, the evidence I present is very compelling. This information is critical for any serious athlete or athletic team.

Energy Production

The body has three systems that are available to the muscle cell for the production of energy or ATP. ATP is needed for muscle contraction and subsequently athletic performance. Therefore, understanding each of these systems and their purpose is critical for optimal athletic performance. There is one aerobic system (which means it requires oxygen) and two anaerobic systems (which do not require oxygen). We will look at each system and where it is needed and obviously its potential consequences on the athletic performance.

Aerobic System

Aerobic metabolism is also referred to as cellular respiration because it requires oxygen to produce ATP. This is a very efficient source of energy although it does not create energy as fast as either anaerobic system. Aerobic metabolism is used for exercise intensities that can be sustained for a long period of time. Examples would be a dancer who is dancing 6 to 8 hours a day or a marathon runner. During cellular respiration, the mitochondria or furnace of the cell produces ATP by using oxygen and carbohydrates, fats, or proteins. Now the most useable fuel is glucose and this is one of the main reasons why having a constant flow of glucose from the blood stream is critical. When the body needs to break down fats and protein for energy, it is much less efficient and slower. In athletic performance this is not a good thing. Learning to control blood sugars and insulin levels is critical in providing a steady supply of glucose for aerobic metabolism. It also allows the muscle cell to have less dependence on the anaerobic system, which you will learn has a byproduct of lactic acid.

If glucose is not available, the body will break down glycogen stores in the muscle and liver to provide the glucose the cell desires. However, there is very little glycogen stores available—approximately 525 grams in muscle and another 100 grams in the liver. The body will then break down fat, which is the most concentrated source of fuel. Now if you are trying to lose weight, prolonged medium intensity workouts are best. However; if your goal is athletic performance, supplying a continual flow of glucose to the cell would best option. The final source of energy would be proteins. Since this means the breakdown of muscle cells, this is obviously not desirable.

Anaerobic Systems

Creatine Phosphate System

Creatine phosphate is a high-energy phosphate that supplies energy for the regeneration of ATP. This is an anaerobic system, which means it does not require oxygen. It is utilized by the muscle for high-intensity activity like running a 100 meter dash. It is very efficient and very effective; however, the problem is the fact that there is only enough stored creatine phosphate in the muscle to sustain 8 to 12 seconds of high-intense activity.

Glycolysis

The second anaerobic system is glycolysis. Glycolysis produces ATP by the breakdown of glycogen. Now this is not as quick and efficient the creatine phosphate system but it is quicker than the aerobic system. The major problem with this system is the fact that its byproduct is lactic acid. If lactic acid gets too high in the muscle cell, it will lead to fatigue and significantly affect athletic performance. Now there are times that you need this system during athletic performance; however, it is obvious that you would want to keep this method of energy production at a minimum.

Hormonal Aspects of Energy Production

Catabolic Hormones

As has been mentioned earlier, the muscle cell prefers glucose as its fuel source. However, during aggressive or prolonged exercise glucose levels will fall and secondary fuel sources are necessary. As exercise intensity or duration increase there is a release of the so-called catabolic hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These hormones will facilitate the breakdown of fats, proteins, and glycogen stores to provide the secondary sources of fuel. Epinephrine and norepinephrine primarily enhance the breakdown of glycogen stores in the muscle and liver. Glycogen offers the quickest source of fuel as noted above and can provide glucose for the aerobic system or in the case of glycolysis, fuel for the anaerobic system. Cortisol primarily enhances the breakdown of fat and proteins for energy. Fat is the least accessible fuel, since it needs to be broken down from fat stores and transported to the cell. Fat also requires carbohydrates or glucose to break it down in order to provide fuel for the cell. Fat is really only a good source of energy for very low-intensity exercise. Proteins from muscle are the last fuel to be utilized. These catabolic hormones can break down muscle protein into amino acids, which may also be used as fuel.

Anabolic Hormones

Anabolic hormones actually build up the bodies stores of useful fuels. The most common anabolic hormone is insulin. Insulin has the ability to transport glucose to the muscle cell and enhance glycogen production. It also increases blood flow to the muscle.

Many athletes attempt to stimulate the production of insulin just prior and just after a major workout in an attempt to take advantage of the positive aspects of insulin. However, when you spike your blood sugar you actually over stimulate the release of insulin and your blood sugars will drop as quickly as they rise and will fall into the hypoglycemic range. Even though the rising blood sugar following a high glycemic meal or snack will stimulate the release of insulin, the low blood sugars that follow will stimulate the release of both epinephrine and cortisol in an attempt to bring this blood sugar back up to normal. So not only is the intensity of your exercise activity increasing the levels of cortisol and epinephrine but you also increase these levels by spiking your blood sugar. Therefore, in an attempt to raise your insulin levels you are actually increasing those catabolic hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The other dilemma is the fact that insulin is of no good unless there is a consistent level of glucose available to be transported into the muscle cell. Spiking your blood sugar only allows the blood sugar to remain elevated for 15 to 20 minutes before it drops into the hypoglycemic range.

High levels of cortisol not only significantly suppress your immune system but also can dramatically slow muscle recovery after exercise. It is important to realize that athletes walk a tightrope when they try to stimulate the release of insulin by consuming high-glycemic carbohydrates. There is a much better way to fuel your muscle cells to optimize your workouts, competitive ability, and recovery from both and that is by consuming low-glycemic carbohydrates along with the good protein and fat prior, during, and just after your workouts or competition.

Optimal Nutrition for Peak Performance Whether you are trying to fuel your muscle cells for an intensive workout or a competitive event, you will want to take into consideration all of the scientific principles that have just been presented. This is not only critical for your performance but also for your recovery. Now the next Healthy for Life Newsletter will focus on specific recommendations for which nutrients to consume before, during, and following your workout or athletic performance. It will also address the concept of nutrient timing for peak performance and recovery. However, this month’s newsletter focuses on the importance of learning all the different aspects and consequences of providing the proper fuel to the muscle cell.

Continual supply of Glucose—Low-glycemic Meal

One of the major principles that you must understand is the fact that you want to provide the muscle cell with a steady, continuous supply of glucose. The reason that this is critical is the fact that this is the most desirable fuel source and it allows you the absolute best opportunity to optimize your performance without jeopardizing your recovery.

When you eat a meal, snack, or nutritional drink that contains the good low-glycemic carbohydrates, good proteins, and good fats, you do not spike your blood sugar. The blood sugar rises slowly; however, you do still stimulate the release of insulin. However, you do not OVER stimulate the release of insulin. Therefore, you get all the benefits of the anabolic affects of insulin like transport of glucose into the cell and the stimulation of glycogen production. The blood glucose level remains elevated for 2 to 4 hours normally and will remain elevated for 1 to 3 hours even during moderately intense exercise. This allows the muscle cell to receive a continuous supply of glucose for aerobic production of ATP. You will only use the anaerobic system (Creatine phosphate and glycolysis) for fuel production during bursts of intense exercise. This intense burst of exercise cannot physically be maintained for any great length of time. Therefore, you would normally return to moderate intensity level and return to this aerobic system.

A good example would be a soccer player or hockey player who may be jogging up and down the field or skating up and down the ice. Then there will be an intensive burst of energy as they receive the ball or puck as they are sprinting or skating as fast as they can. After their involvement in the play is over, they will return to a modest pace and may even find themselves slowing down to recover their breath. When they are involved in modest activity, they will utilize the aerobic system and when the intense burst of activity comes they need to rely on the anaerobic fuel. Obviously, you will return to modest intensity and begin using glucose again, which is being continually supplied to the muscle cell. This will minimize the use of the glycolysis system, which has a byproduct of lactic acid and quickly leads to muscle fatigue.

Contrast this with a high-glycemic meal where athletes are actually trying to spike their blood glucose level to stimulate the release of insulin. The blood sugar remains above the fasting blood sugar level for 15 to 45 minutes normally and 10 to 20 minutes during intense exercise because you have just over stimulated the release of insulin. The blood glucose then falls into the hypoglycemic level (low blood sugar). This immediately cuts off any source of glucose for fuel for the muscle cell. Now the muscle cell must primarily rely on the anaerobic fuel system for both intense and moderate exercise activity. Since there is only an 8 to 12 second supply of creatine phosphate, it is quickly used up and the only option is the use of glycolysis. This will produce a tremendous amount of lactic acid, which will lead to muscle fatigue and decreased performance.

Now in this situation where the body does not have a supply of glucose there will be a release of the catabolic hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine, which will further stimulate the utilization of the glycogen stores and breakdown of fat. However, as you will recall, fat is not a very good source of energy for the muscle cell in moderate to highly intense activity. At the same time, there will be a significant stimulation of cortisol, which will not only stimulate the breakdown of fat but also muscle protein. So now you are facing the situation you were actually trying to avoid when you consumed the high-glycemic meal or snack. The high levels of cortisol along with the stimulation of the anaerobic energy system. The high levels of cortisol along with the high lactic acid levels in the muscle will dramatically decrease your athletic performance and slow muscle recovery following your exercise.

Now that you are beginning to understand the importance of not spiking your blood sugar, my next newsletter will focus on understanding the glycemic index and glycemic load. This will clearly educate you on which foods you will need to avoid and which ones you need to be consuming. I will also discuss the concept of nutrient timing next, which will optimize not only your athletic performance, but also your recovery.

Serious or Competitive AthletePart 2Nutrient Timing

Serious Athlete–Part 2 (Download PDF)

This issue of the Healthy for Life Newsletter is going to focus on what type of macronutrients a serious or competitive athlete should be supplying to their body for maximum or optimal performance and when it should be consumed for optimal recovery—nutrient timing. Most individuals who are exercising are doing so to lose or control weight. In this case, it is best to just eat a healthy diet, establish a modest exercise program and provide cellular nutrition through supplementation (Healthy for Life Program located www.releasingfat.com). However, many amateur and even professional athletes are more concerned about peak or optimal performance. Therefore, in this issue you will learn how you can take advantage of the metabolic effects of exercise and nutrient timing to optimize muscle strength, growth and recovery.

Now I realize that athletes have different desires in regards to muscle size and strength depending on their sport. A ballroom dancer is going to have a different desire when it comes to the size of his or her muscles as compared to a defensive tackle. However, understanding the basic principles of nutrient timing will allow the athlete the ability to better achieve their goal of optimal athletic performance. The actual type of workout will have more impact in determining if your muscles will increase in size, strength or both. Recovery from your workouts will be enhanced and your overall health will be better protected as you learn and apply these principles.

Metabolic Phases—Review

Energy Phase

This was discussed in detailed in last month’s newsletter. However, it is important to review some of the basic principles of energy production for the muscle cell. There is only a small amount of ATP stored in muscle cells and it is quickly used up when you begin to exercise. The muscle prefers to produce more ATP via the aerobic energy production system, which requires a constant supply of glucose and oxygen. When your blood glucose levels drop significantly, your muscle switches to the anaerobic energy producing systems. This is the CP and glycogen source of quick ATP production. However, as you may recall, the negative aspect of these systems is the fact that the end products of producing ATP by these methods is lactic acid. This eventually creates greater muscle damage and muscle fatigue. It also increases the levels of cortisol in your body, which is a catabolic hormone that depletes your immune system and slows recovery.

The ideal physiologic and metabolic state for the athlete who is involved in competition or an aggressive workout is to have a constant supply of glucose along with adequate blood insulin levels. This allows the muscle tissue the best opportunity to remain primarily in the aerobic energy production and therefore avoid the anaerobic energy production as much as possible. Now depending on the intensity of your exercise activity, aerobic energy production just cannot keep up with the demand for ATP or energy for the muscle cell. The body will then call on the CP system or glycolysis for the quick production of ATP. However, it is important to realize that as your exercise intensity decreases or you are actually resting the muscle you can easily switch back to the aerobic system. The key is to understand that when the muscle has a continuous supply of glucose, which is the fuel source it prefers, your athletic performance is optimized. However, we now need to review what happens when you don’t have that continuous supply of glucose and blood glucose levels begin to drop.

When blood glucose levels begin to significantly drop, the body will begin to break down fat and then eventually protein to provide fuel for the cell. Now as you may recall from my last newsletter, this is a much slower process and is not near as efficient of a fuel source as is glucose. Fat can only be used effectively for low-intensity exercise and it also requires glucose within the muscle cell to produce ATP. Muscle protein is also broken down into amino acids, which can also be used to produce ATP. However, this causes a significant amount of muscle damage and soreness because of the lactic acid this process produces. Therefore, during moderate to high intensity activity, if glucose is not readily available to the muscle, you will begin breaking down glycogen, which is your glucose storage in the muscle and liver. The problem is the fact that in this situation you will quickly use up your glycogen stores. Now you have to use fat and muscle to provide energy, which leads to increase in your lactic acid levels in your muscle. This will quickly lead to muscle fatigue, prolonged recovery, increased muscle damage, and decreased athletic performance.

Maintaining Blood Glucose and Insulin Levels in the Optimal Range

Athletes have been encouraged to consume what is referred to as high-glycemic carbohydrates in an attempt to maximize insulin levels. However, the medical literature is now showing us that when you spike your blood sugar levels by consuming high-glycemic carbohydrates that you actually over stimulate the release of insulin. This causes your blood sugars to drop as fast as they went up. Your blood sugars will then drop into the hypoglycemic levels especially when you are involved in an aggressive workout or competition. The low blood sugar levels then stimulate the release of our stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Now you have created a situation that you so desperately wanted to avoid. These are known as the catabolic or destructive hormones. This causes decrease in your muscle function and recovery.

The answer is to actually consume what is referred to as low-glycemic carbohydrates along with good protein and good fat. Then your blood sugar will slowly increase as you modestly increase your insulin levels. Your blood sugar will remain in the competitive zone for a much greater time. Your insulin levels will be stimulated; however, not over stimulated. Therefore, your blood sugars will not drop into the hypoglycemic or low blood sugar range. This is the key to supplying a steady supply of glucose to the cell for aerobic energy production.

It is wise to consume a well-balanced nutritional drink that actually contains these good low-glycemic carbohydrates, good fats, and good proteins about 30 minutes prior to a workout or competition. If you are involved in a prolonged workout or competition, you can even have an additional drink half way through your workout or competitive event. For example, if it is a basketball game, you could have an additional nutritional drink at halftime. In any event, you do not want to spike your blood sugar and be trying to compete when your blood sugar is going up and down like a rollercoaster ride.

Anabolic Phase—Nutrient Timing

Once you have completed your workout or athletic performance, you now enter what is referred to as the anabolic phase. In the anabolic phase, your body is busy repairing any muscle damage and replenishing the depleted glycogen stores that were used during your workout or competition. Recent studies are showing that there is a window of opportunity that occurs just following exercise where you are able to enhance this process. There is about a 45-minute period of time following your exercise where the muscle is more responsive to insulin and the proper nutrients necessary for the repair and for replenishing your glycogen stores. If you provide the muscle with the appropriate balance of low-glycemic carbohydrates, good fats and proteins immediately following your workout or athletic performance, you can significantly increase the rate of muscle repair and glycogen storage. Following this window of opportunity the muscle is no longer as receptive to these important nutrients and insulin; therefore you do not see any significant enhancement of the recovery phase for the muscle. Now there are a lot of theories why this happens; however the studies consistently show that if you take advantage of this concept of nutrient timing, you can improve muscle recovery and strength as well as athletic performance.

Several clinical trials have shown that consuming a carbohydrate drink immediately following an intense workout improves insulin response, glycogen stores and protein or muscle synthesis. However, what is interesting is the fact that protein may be even more important in providing the essential nutrients required during this critical time. In fact, studies that have combined the use of protein and carbohydrates at this time have shown greater enhancement of both glycogen stores and muscle repair. This has led many sports nutritionist to begin recommending that you consume high-glycemic carbohydrate/protein drinks shortly following (30 to 45 minutes) your intense workouts or athletic performance. However, as you are learning, I feel that there is a hidden danger of recommending high-glycemic carbohydrates that have been used in these clinical trials.

I personally believe that you should be consuming a nutritional drink that provides these good low-glycemic carbohydrates, good proteins (soy or whey or a combination), along with good fats (helps decrease inflammation naturally). You should consume this drink within 30 to no later than 45 minutes following your workout or competition. This will actually allow you to take even better advantage of this window of time where the muscle cell is more receptive to these nutrients.

Growth Phase

The final phase is referred to as the growth phase. This phase involves the first twenty four hours to 3 to 4 day period following the anabolic phase. The type and intensity of the workout will determine how long it will take for your muscles to recover. If you are primarily involved in aerobic exercise, it may only take 18 to 24 hours to recover. However, if you are involved in intense weight resistant exercise, it may take that muscle 3 to 4 days to fully recover. Athletes that are primarily involved in weight resistant training in attempt to build muscle size and bulk are learning that they have better results if they only exercise a particular muscle group once or at the most twice a week. The reason for this is due to the growth phase. If you do not allow the muscle time to fully recover, you would be tearing it down again before it had a chance to go through this complete growth phase. It is critical to understand that a muscle that has been damaged during your intense exercise will become stronger the more it is being rested. Repeatedly tearing down the muscle before this can happen defeats your purpose of building size and strength.

Now if you are primarily involved in aerobic exercise, your muscles would obviously be able to recover much quicker. This is why those individuals who are involved primarily with aggressive aerobic exercise are able to workout day after day. However, I still recommend that these athletes still give their body a rest at least once or twice a week. Ideally, it is a good idea to only workout 5 days per week.

Conclusion

I have covered a lot of scientific principles to illustrate the importance of providing the proper macro-nutrition to the muscle for optimal performance. The goal should be to have ideal levels of glucose and insulin available to the muscle cell during and following your workouts or competition. This gives you the best opportunity to optimize your performance and recovery. The athlete also needs to become very knowledgeable about which foods can spike his or her blood sugar. It is not possible in a newsletter to completely present this information. I would strongly encourage any of you to get a copy of my book Healthy for Life to learn more about these important concepts. You could also consider joining my 6 month program for the Serious or Competitive Athlete located at www.releasingfat.com.

I also feel that it is critical for the serious or competitive athlete to be taking high quality, complete and balanced nutritional supplements each and every day. There is a tremendous amount of excessive free radicals produced during an intense workout. In order to protect your overall health as well as your athletic performance, taking nutritional supplementation is critical.

Serious or Competitive AthletePart 3—Nutritional Supplementation

Serious Athlete–Part 3 (Download PDF)

Most individuals who are in excellent physical condition feel that they are the healthiest people in our society. Now, I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the main researcher on the health benefits of exercise, wrote a book back in 1994 called The Antioxidant Revolution warning of the dangers of over exercise. This book focused primarily on warning the serious or competitive athlete that excessive exercise was actually dangerous to their health. He strongly recommended that everyone needed to be consuming nutritional supplements; however, for the competitive athlete it was absolutely essential. This edition of the Healthy for Life Newsletter will focus on why Dr. Cooper would make such dramatic conclusions from his research.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper—Exercise and Health

Dr. Kenneth Cooper began the exercise revolution in the early 1970’s and actually coined the term aerobics. He is truly the father of preventive medicine. He convinced the medical community and society in general that there were significant health benefits to modest, consistent physical exercise. Now what he defined as modest exercise was aerobic exertion that equaled walking or running 15 miles per week. This is the level of activity that Dr. Cooper found gave the individual the optimal health benefits of physical exercise. Now he initially felt that any exercise level above this recommendation was simply frosting on the cake and could only lead to further health benefits for those who desired to aggressively pursue an exercise program.

Dr. Cooper has established his Aerobic Center in Dallas, Texas. Thousands have come to his clinic to have a complete health assessment and to be followed by Dr. Cooper and his staff. In the early 1990’s, Dr. Cooper became concerned about what he was observing. Many of his “Super” athletes were coming into his clinic in their mid-40’s and 50’s suffering and dying from diseases like heart disease, cancer, and stroke. These were individuals who had run 20, 30 or more marathons in their life. How could this be? Weren’t these people supposed to be the healthiest people around? Why were they even getting these chronic degenerative diseases? What was even more concerning was the fact that they were getting them at such a young age. This caused Dr. Cooper to begin researching the medical literature to try and find the answer. The result of this research was his book, The Antioxidant Revolution [Thomas Nelson 2004]. In fact, this was the first book that I read and researched back in 1995 after I became interested in nutritional medicine.

Dr. Cooper began to realize that the root cause of diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, strokes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and the list goes on and on was oxidative stress caused by excessive free radicals. He then began to study several of the athletes that were coming to his Aerobic Center in Dallas. What he found was very disturbing. When these athletes would exercise mildly or modestly, the number of free radicals they produced would go up just a little. However, when they overexercised during any workout, the number of free radicals they produced would go up exponentially and just shoot off the graph. It did not matter what type of exercise his athletes were doing. They could be running, swimming, lifting weights or riding bikes. The findings were the same. His research of the medical literature demonstrated the same thing. This led him to conclude that over exercise is actually dangerous to your health.

Now, he was not telling his athletes not to be competitive. He concluded that if you wanted to be a serious or competitive athlete that was involved in heavy, excessive workouts, you had to take a significant amount of nutritional supplements. When he wrote his book, he primarily focused on vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and selenium because this is what had been studied the most. However, we now realize that you want to have all the antioxidants and their supporting nutrients at these optimal levels, which is what I refer to as cellular nutrition. I believe that all of my patients at least need to be taking nutritional supplements to provide this cellular nutrition. However, as I have stressed in my books and previous newsletters, balance is the key in avoiding the damaging affects to our health created by excessive free radicals.

Balance is the Key

The key is the fact that you want to have enough antioxidants on board to handle the number of free radicals you are producing. If this is the case, you will not develop oxidative stress. Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize these free radicals and render them harmless. When you have a mild or modest workout, the number of free radicals you are going to produce will only go up a little. However, if you are involved in an intense workout or a prolonged workout, the numbers of free radicals you produce are going to be tremendous. The competitive or serious athlete must realize this truth if they are going to be able to effectively protect their health. It does not matter how you are exerting your body. If you are over exerting it, you are placing your health in jeopardy. You are accelerating the aging of your body.

This is the primary reason that I recommend that anyone who is a serious athlete must consume antioxidant supplements that provide what I refer to as cellular nutrition. However, they must also add to this basic nutritional program additional potent antioxidants. I refer to these additional antioxidants as “Enhancers”. When you add these potent antioxidants to the basic cellular nutrition, you give your body the best chance of handling this significantly elevated number of free radicals you are producing because of your intense workouts or competitions. Simply put, if you have enough antioxidants on board to handle the number of free radicals you are producing, you will prevent oxidative stress and protect your health.

Improved Athletic Performance and Recovery

Competitive athletes are always looking for an edge to improve their athletic performance. Just look at the number of athletes who turn to drugs to try and accomplish this goal. They will jeopardize their entire career for even the possibility of improving or giving themselves a competitive edge. I have just shared with you the science and medical principles that will allow you to go to the next level. It is inexpensive, legal, and easy to accomplish. You simply need to consume high-quality, complete and balanced nutritional supplements along with those potent “enhancers”. In fact, I am aware of a company that actually guarantees their products will not create a positive drug test for the professional athlete.

Another aspect to improved athletic performance is simply the recovery time from an aggressive workout. Since excessive free radicals are known to damage tissue, especially muscle tissue during intense workouts, recovery is delayed. You have already learned from previous newsletters how nutrient timing can allow you to recover from a workout better and much quicker. However, if you do not address the problem of oxidative stress to the muscle tissue itself, nutrient timing will do little to speed your recovery. Many athletes have found themselves actually doing worse and having poorer and poorer workouts the more they push themselves. Thinking that there is no benefit unless they go all out, the serious athlete can actually develop the overtraining syndrome.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper evaluated a group of athletes who were suffering from the “Overtraining Syndrome.” He related this syndrome to the excessive damage to the muscles and overall immune system during intense workouts via excessive free radicals. Not only did these athletes develop fatigue, muscle weakness, inability to complete workouts, but also noted frequent infections and a depleted immune system. What good does it do an athlete to be in super physical shape if he develops an infectious illness or significant fatigue due to his aggressive training schedule? Intense workouts, which are necessary for any serious, competitive athlete, are not only dangerous to your overall health but place the athlete at risk of actually developing the overtraining syndrome and interrupting their career. Optimizing the body’s natural immune system, antioxidant defense system, and repair system is essential in protecting the competitive athlete.

Cellular Nutrition

I define cellular nutrition as providing the cell with all the essential micronutrients at optimal levels or those levels that have been shown to provide a health benefit in our medical literature. This should be a high-quality, complete and balanced product that follows pharmaceutical-grade Good Manufacturing practices and USP (US Pharmacopeia). This cellular nutrition should provide you with a wide array of antioxidants and their supporting minerals and B cofactors. I also believe that this should include optimal levels of calcium and magnesium along with a filtered fish oil capsule. Every individual needs to be consuming this level of supplementation. However, the athlete needs to be also be consuming in addition what I refer to as “Enhancers.”

Enhancers

The best enhancer for the athlete is grape seed extract. When combined with other antioxidants it is 50 times more potent than vitamin E and 20 times more potent than vitamin C. It has some anti-inflammatory properties and anti-allergen properties. Many of the athletes that I have consulted who also had the diagnosis of exceptional asthma have had significant improvement over time just by adding 200 to 300 mg of pharmaceutical-grade grape seed extract. It also allowed them to have quicker and more effective recovery from workouts. This potent antioxidant also easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and improves your focus and concentration during workouts and competition.

The next best enhancer for the athlete is CoQ10. I recommend that the athlete take 100 to 200 mg of the powder form daily or 30 to 60 mg of the gel cap formula. The gel cap formula is absorbed about 3 to 3 1/2 times greater than the powder form. It is a potent antioxidant but also is a critical nutrient for the production of energy within the muscle cell itself. It has another great quality in the fact that it significantly enhances our immune system.

Many athletes also like to supplement their diet with glucosamine sulfate. Glucosamine sulfate has been shown to increase joint fluid and actually rebuild cartilage. It is a tremendous nutrient for runners and dancers, since their joints are traumatized so much. I like to combine glucosamine with a natural anti-inflammatory like turmeric.

Conclusion

Nutritional supplementation is critical for the serious or competitive athlete or, for that matter, anyone who has an aggressive exercise program. It not only helps to protect your health, but also, allows for quicker and more complete recovery from workouts. It will also optimize your athletic performance. When you combine the concept of nutrient timing with an aggressive nutritional supplement program, you are giving your body the best opportunity to perform at its optimal level.

 

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