Just how important is diet and nutrition to performance? Most non-professional athletes don’t think very much about their diet. (You may be the 1 in 500 that does care). They consume the typical America diet rich in processed foods and excessive animal proteins (pizza, burgers, fries, chips, crackers, pastries, fried foods, a lot of restaurant food, wings, dairy, grain fed beef, pork) with an occasional healthy choice. They focus more on what I call event focused foods, drinks and supplements: drinks with electrolytes and carbs, power bars, and performance enhancers like beta alanine, L tyrosine, L carnotine and caffeine. These are fine for the event but do little to really enhance the bodies ability to provide optimal performance over a season. Many of the amateur to semi-pro athletes I encounter have some serious health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more. Friends it all about the diet!!
Professionals tend to understand the difference it makes. They have learned that nutrition is important to performance. It can mean hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars of additional income. Look at Tom Brady’s diet and routine. Many have even gone Vegan because of its tremendous anti-inflammatory and health building benefits.
To provide optimal performance the diet needs to be addressed months before any very vigorous event. You can’t just go out and expect to pull of an Iron Man, a 70.2 or a 100 mile bicycle race with 10,000 feet of climb without giving your nutrient intake a great deal of thought and planning.
It takes a lot of different vitamins and minerals to create clean energy, repair and build tissues, keep immune function high and keep every organ functioning at peak capacity under the demands of intense athletic performance. It takes a lot anti-oxidants to reduce the damage from oxidation created by the metabolic system. These nutrients do not come from processed foods and the typical American diet. They come from plants!!
I had the opportunity to work at a cycling event 4 years ago. As many riders from the 80 mile mountainous ride were coming in, one serious cyclist from Colorado came to our booth and said “I need calories, please anything”. Obviously, we hooked him up with a Vive!™ shake. He chugged it and then another half of one 10 minutes later. He explained that 15 miles back he had bonked (depleted water, glucose and glycogen stores causing extreme muscle weakness) coming up the last hill. Can bonking be prevented or delayed nutritionally? Yes absolutely! So what caused him to bonk? To little sugar, too much sugar from a gel, not enough vitamins and minerals to create energy? Not enough water to release fat stores for energy? It could be any of them and all of them.
Certainly training is essential for endurance particularly to push back the anaerobic threshold by increasing cardiac volume.
Bonking is about the lack of nutrient, glucose/glycogen depletion, potentially a extreme loss of electrolytes and even dehydration. The role of your nutritional intake is 3 to 4 times more important than any other part of your athletic regimen. Many runners and cyclist will take glucose gels, chews, bars and electrolytes drinks during their event to replenish their lost blood sugar and electrolytes, which is very necessary. Some will add supplements containing Caffeine, L-Tyrosine, L–arginine and Beta Alanine to aid performance and these can also help. All of these are missing a few very key elements to the energy pathway. Bonking happens when one of the necessary elements for converting energy is missing or your stores of glycogen (stored sugar) is depleted. Energy production also requires onboard nutrients and converting them into particular compounds before ADP and ATP can even be made available to make energy. However, to turn glucose, fat and protein into readily available energy is a highly complex process that involves many metabolic actions requiring oxygen, fatty acids, glucose/glycogen, water, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. In the metabolic pathways many vitamins and minerals are necessary to convert the energy source (foods) into energy molecules such as Phosphocreatine, ADP and ATP. Additionally, the antioxidants contained in vegetative foods is very important at protecting muscle cells from the heavy oxidative damaged caused by intense exercise. Antioxidants along with these very important vitamins and minerals help speed up recovery as well. Antioxidants are very important for athletes.
You cannot overcome a nutritionally poor diet with supplements. However you can supplement a nutritionally rich diet and increase performance potential. Refined and processed foods are nutrient thieves. They deplete your body of more nutrients than they provide.
Enzymes, vitamins and minerals and their effects on energy metabolism pathways.
Enzymes are required to make energy and cannot do their jobs without specific vitamins and minerals! An enzyme with out the right combination of a specific vitamin and mineral is dead, it is non-functional. If you do not get the critical nutrients from your diet, the body robs them from muscle and organs to produce the energy you demand. Continued nutrient depletion leads to slower recover and less than optimal performance potential and eventually illness and disease. A diet of variety with adequate calories provides an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber!
Vitamins and Minerals needed for enzymatic actions creating ADP, ATP and Phosphocreatine for the energy pathways.
B1 is an essential cofactor (required for enzymes to do their job) in the conversion of carbohydrates to energy. B1 is needed for normal muscle function.
B2 is a cofactor and helps in the release of energy from fats and carbohydrates. B2 is part of the flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) oxidation reaction in the cell to make energy. B2 is very important in the conversion of fat to energy.
B3 is a cofactor and is transformed into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and NADP, which play a key role in cellular energy production.
Pantothenic acid (B5)
B5 plays an essential role in the Krebs cycle (one of three energy major energy pathways) as a component of coenzyme A (a critical enzyme needed to make energy).
B6 helps in the release of energy from carbohydrates fats and proteins. B6 is used as a cofactor mainly in protein and amino acid metabolism and is involved in over 100 enzymatic reactions.
B7 is a cofactor involved in metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and utilization of B vitamins.
Folic acid, Folate (B9)
Folate’s function as a family of cofactors required for methylation reactions. Folate is essential for metabolic pathways involving cell growth and replication.
B12 is essential for metabolism of fats and carbohydrates and the synthesis of proteins. B12 is required for folic acid metabolism.
Vitamin C is essential for synthesis of carnitine (carnitine transports long-chain fatty acids into mitochondria). Vitamin C increases can triple the absorption of non-heme (iron from plants) iron and the synthesis of cortisol.
Calcium is essential for the contraction of muscles and activation of nerves. Calcium activates a series of reactions including fatty acid oxidation for use in the mitochondria. Calcium is also an electrolyte and vital for cellular electrical functions.
Phosphorus is a structural component of the nucleotide coenzymes creatine phosphate, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). All of which are required in the mitochondria for energy to be produced.
Magnesium is essential for the relaxation of muscles and nerves. Magnesium is used in over 300 enzyme reactions. Required by all enzymatic reactions involving the energy storage molecule ATP. Magnesium is also an electrolyte and vital for cellular electrical functions.
- Potassium and sodium are electrolytes and are required for signals to transfer from the nervous system and brain to each individual cell and from cell to cell
- Trace minerals
Cooper is involved in the making of some enzymes. Copper is also involved in iron metabolism.
Chromium promotes insulin action, thus promoting glucose (blood sugar) uptake by the cells.
Iron is essential in hemoglobin for transporting oxygen and for storing oxygen in the muscle and releasing it when needed during muscle contraction. Iron facilitates the transfer of electrons in the cell energy pathway and is important in ATP actions.
Manganese is a cofactor of several enzymes involved in metabolism of carbohydrates and gluconeogenisis. Gluconeogenisis is the making of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. It involves the tearing down of muscle to turn certain amino acids and glycerin into glucose. This begins when you bonk as glucose and glycogen stores are depleted. This is very hard on the body and you want to avoid it.
Zinc is an essential part of more than 100 enzymes, some of which are involved in the cell energy pathway. Zinc is also vital to keep the immune system functioning at optimal levels. Athletes often get sick after very intense physical stress like those from long endurance competitions such as long hard bicycle races, marathons, Spartacus events and Iron Men events.
Water is essential for making fatty acids available for energy in every cell, it also helps regulate body temperature and blood pressure.
Additionally, if you are meat/fish eaters make sure they are free range lean meats, wild caught fish, free-range organic poultry and eggs. Anytime you can make your food selections organic, wild caught and free range you reduce the risk of contamination from pathogens and potentially increase your nutritional intake.
This website can give you a great list of which foods are the best sources for which nutrients. http://www.whfoods.com/nutrientstoc.php
Eat great to perform great.
The US Food and Drug Administration have not evaluated statements contained herein. Products and information presented herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.
The contents of this blog are not and should not be considered medical advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. Never quit taking prescription medications unless advised to do so by your doctor.