Foundational supplements (for athletes)
In this article I will discuss the dietary supplements that will form your foundation to good health and performance, in addition to a healthy diet. These foundational supplements are nutritional aids based on essential nutrients and should therefore be used daily. Essential nutrients are nutrients that the body can’t produce by itself (mostly amino acids, some fatty acids and a bunch of vitamins and minerals), and they need to be provided by the diet. The problem in our modern society is that most of the time, wrong food choices are made and sufficient variation in the foods we eat is lacking. Additionally, there is a growing availability of processed foods. All these factors contribute to an increased risk for deficiencies, which will ultimately hamper your health and performance. In the following part of the article I will discuss three foundational supplements I take year-round:
Vitamins and minerals act as co-factors for enzymes to support cell function. Since deficiencies are more common than you would think, a basic multi-vitamin/mineral can function as an inexpensive nutritional insurance. In normal circumstances, your diet will already provide most nutrients, so a multi-vitamin/mineral that covers no more than 100% of the RDA is sufficient. It is important that the fat soluble vitamins (ADEK) do not exceed the RDA. They can be stored in the body and extremely high doses can cause toxicity. Men, especially those that eat plenty of red meat, should opt for an iron-free variant and females should choose one that includes iron because of their increased risk for anemia (mainly because of monthly blood losses). It is still crucial that you consume a well-balanced diet, so don’t consider your multi-vitamin/mineral as an excuse for a suboptimal diet!
2) Fish oil (EPA+DHA)
It is not that easy to acquire optimal amounts of essential fatty acids, and most certainly to get them in the proper ratio. There are 2 types of essential fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega 3 fatty acid and linoleic acid (LA), which is an omega 6 fatty acid. Our diet provides too much omega 6 fatty acids and too little omega 3 fatty acids. Moreover, the conversion of ALA to fish oils (EPA and DHA) is very inefficient, causing suboptimal amounts of EPA and DHA. It is the fish oil that has the health benefiting effects by controlling inflammation, stimulating fat oxidation, inhibiting fat storage, etc… There are several studies that showed that a dose of 2.000 – 4.000 mg EPA + DHA can enhance fat burning and-/or increase lean body mass (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Therefore, I take 3.000 mg of EPA + DHA each day. Different manufacturers offer different concentrations of EPA and DHA per capsule, just make sure you hit the total.
3) Vitamin D
Fish oil was a very hot topic in the past few years, but now the interest in Vitamin D rises. Vitamin D can be produced by the body, if the skin is sufficiently exposed to sunlight (15 minutes of sunlight exposure of arms and legs per day). Despite the fact that it can be produced endogenously, Vitamin D deficiencies (<20 ng/ml) and insufficiencies (20 -30 ng/ml) are now reaching epidemic proportions, mainly for people who work indoors or in countries with minimal sun exposure. It seems that the current RDA for Vitamin D is quite low, that’s why Vitamin D can be used in addition to a multi-vitamin/mineral. It has been demonstrated that Vitamin D has beneficial effects on immune function, muscle function and against bone fractures, which are all very valuable to athletes. Experts proclaim that the optimal blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are in the range of 50 – 80 ng/ml (6). It is also stated that it takes 1.000 IU to increase serum levels by 10 ng/ml (7). To reach these optimal levels, a daily dose of 2.000 IU is required. This amount is safe, but extreme doses above 10.000 IU can cause toxicity. Remember that “better is better”, so don’t mega dose fat soluble vitamins! Make sure you don’t take more than 2.000 IU per day in addition to your multi-vitamin/mineral, since your multi-vitamin/mineral normally already contains Vitamin D. After a few months of supplementation you should take a blood test for 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and adjust your supplementation accordingly. I try to stay between 50 – 60 ng/ml and I check my blood levels once or twice per year.
Remember that when you have an optimal diet, eat plenty of fatty fish and get sufficient sun exposure each day, you probably can do without these nutritional aids. But how many of you really achieve that?
Excerpt image by topnews.net
- Couet, C., Delarue, J., Ritz, P., Antoine, J. -., & Lamisse, F. (1997). Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults. International Journal of Obesity, 21(8), 637-643.
- Huffman, D. M., Michaelson, J. L., & Thomas, T. R. (2004). Chronic supplementation with fish oil increases fat oxidation during exercise in young men. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, 7(1), 48-56.
- Hill, A. M., Buckley, J. D., Murphy, K. J., & Howe, P. R. C. (2007). Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), 1267-1274.
- Noreen, E. E., Sass, M. J., Crowe, M. L., Pabon, V. A., Brandauer, J., & Averill, L. K. (2010). Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7
- Thorsdottir, I., Tomasson, H., Gunnarsdottir, I., Gisladottir, E., Kiely, M., Parra, M. D., et al. (2007). Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content. International Journal of Obesity, 31(10), 1560-1566.
- Cannel, J.J. (2010). Vitamin D Council Statement on FNB Vitamin D Report.
- Moyad, M. A. (2008). Vitamin D: A rapid review. Urologic Nursing : Official Journal of the American Urological Association Allied, 28(5), 343-349, 384; quiz 350.
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