So how can sports nutrition actually help you? Read on below for more information about the different categories and what benefits you can expect to see from each one.
Protein is important for helping to build and repair tissues and for muscle strength. To name a few, protein also aids in weight management, lean body mass, and supports a healthy immune system.
The vast majority of protein products are sold as powders to be mixed with water or milk. Most of them contain, as their principal ingredient, milk protein (whey protein and/or casein) but egg and soy proteins are also fairly common. These products are designed to be a convenient source of high-quality protein to meet the well-established increased needs of athletes and individuals who participate in heavy exercise.
But do you eat the right kinds of protein? ESSNA has a guide (coming soon!).
Amino acids are simply the building blocks that make up proteins, which are digested and metabolised by the body from the food we eat.
Some of these amino acids are responsible for protein’s ability to stimulate muscle growth and repair and some have a more potent effect in this regard than others. This makes them obvious candidates to be used in sports nutrition products for recovery, repair and growth in hard-training sportspeople.
An adequate carbohydrates intake helps you increase your exercise performance. Having a carbohydrate drink with electrolytes improves endurance performance in prolonged aerobic activities.
Carbohydrates are the preferred source of extra energy for someone who needs to maintain or increase their body weight.
Carbohydrate drinks make up the biggest-selling category of sports nutrition products. The best-known examples, such as Lucozade, Powerade and Gatorade, simply contain water, sugar, starch, minerals, colours and sweeteners.
Creatine is an amino acid-like molecule which is found in several common foods and is produced by the body.
Creatine is used to increase muscle strength, enhance recovery and improve sprint performance. With creatine, it’s been found that high-intensity muscle contractions could be repeated for a greater duration. Creatine will also help you increase your lean body mass.
Fat provides the majority of energy to individuals who exercise at low-to-moderate intensity. Fat is also required as an essential component of all of the cells in the body.
For active people and sportsmen in particular, omega-3 fats may deliver advantages such as mitigating inflammation that is associated with heavy exercise training and therefore speeding up recovery.
Other fats, such as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) have been found to have other traits such as improved body composition or advantages in how they are metabolised and used for energy.
Caffeine helps you train harder and longer, by improving concentration and alertness and enhancing performance. With one caveat: bodies respond differently to caffeine, so don’t just assume a caffeine boost will improve your performance and endurance! Take time to learn what works best for your body.
Electrolytes are salts that are naturally part of body fluids. When an athlete sweats, electrolytes are lost through the sweat. If electrolytes are lost too quickly, the body does not have the ability to restore them as rapidly as they were lost. Sports drinks contain electrolytes such as chloride, sodium, and potassium to help replenish what was lost through sweat. Introducing electrolytes back into the body helps keep dehydration from occurring.