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David Freeze: Gotta Run

Do you need supplements?

Runners are just like everyone else in one major way. They look for an easy edge to improve performance, whether the goal is to run faster or to just enjoy the exercise more. Advertising pushes really hard for certain supplements, claiming that performance enhancers will provide an easy edge. The problem with most of the supplements, besides the fact that many are worthless, is that they are largely unregulated. Here are just a few highlights that might help you fuel the body for higher energy and better performance without the use of costly supplements.

No amount of any supplement will compensate for a poor sports diet. Good commercial sports supplements work best when added to a well-chosen eating plan. If you plan to use commercial sports supplements, it might be best to speak with a registered dietician who specializes in sports related issues. Products are commonly tainted with unsafe or even banned substances, and the claims that they make are unsubstantiated. That goes back to the unregulated issue again. Some supplements are very expensive, making the trip to the dietician worth even more. Some examples of hype as opposed to reality follow.

Vitamin and mineral supplements will not improve your performance unless they reverse a nutritional deficiency. Extra amounts don’t pay any dividends. As an example, many women are iron deficient that may be caused by low dietary iron. An iron supplement can reverse iron deficiency over a 3-6 month period. But by eating iron-rich foods in the first place, these women may be able to avoid the supplement.

Antioxidant vitamins, such as C and E, have not been shown to enhance athletic performance. There is some evidence that high doses of antioxidant supplements might actually hinder training. The safest and most effective way to boost antioxidants is to regularly enjoy colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts, oranges, berries, broccoli, spinach, almonds, etc. Real foods taste better than pills too!

One of my biggest issues comes with protein supplements. Most Americans consume plenty of adequate protein on their own, but they may eat it at the wrong times, especially with a goal of better exercise. It is better to consume some protein every 3-5 hours, not a massive amount in one setting. Your system will like the smaller doses better. As an example, if you plan to eat 16 ounces of salmon (probably 4-5 servings) at dinner, consider a smaller amount at that time after having eggs for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and Greek yogurt and nuts for an afternoon snack. Eating more than 40 grams of protein at once has not been shown to improve athletic performance, but smaller doses throughout the day does improve muscle repair and growth as needed. Powdered protein is very popular but not necessary for most adults.

Some supplements have been shown to improve performance. Some sports drinks and gels, caffeine, creatine, sodium bicarbonate, beta alanine and nitrate have proven research that they work. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American College of Sports Medicine and Dieticians of Canada evaluated the latest research and wrote the Position Stand on Nutrition and Athletic Performance providing this information.

During my own racing career, I experimented with supplements and found most of them useless. Proper hydration, meal choices and sleep make much bigger differences in performance in most cases. I love to read the work of Registered Dietician Nancy Clark, herself a former standout marathoner. She tells it like it is at www.nancyclarkrd.com Much of the material above came from her writings. Check out her website for tons of great information.

Two good races are coming up. On Saturday, March 24th, the Lamb 5K in Mooresville is held on a greenway type course. The Mt. Hope Church 5K is on Saturday, March 31st at Salisbury Community Park where it will be run on a scenic course around the lake. Look for information on these races and others already planned at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org

Spring weather is just around the corner. Our spring beginning runners class just kicked off this past Tuesday. You can still join the group at 6pm Tuesday in the cafeteria meeting room at Novant Health. For more information, call 704-202-6601.

 

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