Proper nutrition is vital for athletes at all stages of activity. Whether you’re already heavy into a routine or just getting started, congratulations! Activity can benefit you mentally, physically and emotionally. Here are some nutrition and supplementation recommendations to keep your body feeling strong and healthy throughout your workouts.
Since athletes use more energy, their bodies naturally need more nutrition (and calories). Here are some basic rules of thumb for eating while active:
- Get adequate protein: Adequate, regular consumption of protein is necessary because it is not readily stored by the body for later use. It’s especially important to consume protein just after exercise, in order to rebuild and repair muscle. Note: Increased protein intake comes with an increased demand for hydration, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water along with it.
- Go for healthy carbohydrates: Carbs are the most efficient fuel for the body and are essential for athleticism. Complex carbohydrates are broken down and stored as glycogen in the liver and skeletal muscles. The body converts the glycogen to glucose, providing sustained energy during an athletic event. Good sources of carbs for athletes are colorful fruits (blueberries, strawberries, bananas, apricots, plums, oranges, plums and prunes), vegetables (sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, eggplant, carrots), grains (brown rice, millet, oats) and legumes (lentils, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black beans).
- Maintain good hydration: Athletic performance can sap your fluid levels, so rehydrate with plenty of liquids and electrolytes before, during and particularly after exercise.
Though it’s always best to get nutrients through a healthy, balanced diet, these supplements can assist in building and preparing the body for workouts—as well as for post-workout recovery.
- A good multivitamin is necessary to ensure you’re getting essential vitamins and minerals to nourish your muscles.
- Vitamin C can help to reduce pain and speed muscle recovery after exercise. Try taking 500-1,000 mg before and after your workout.
- Electrolytes can boost performance and replace lost electrolytes. Since the body actively loses electrolytes through sweating, it’s most important to drink your electrolytes during and after your exercise regimen.
- Eleuthero helps strengthen immune function. Power Adapt by Natura is an excellent blend of herbs, including eleuthero and medicinal mushrooms, that supplies the body with energy and overall stamina. This can be taken every day while you are working out regularly.
- Cordyceps is very supportive of lung oxygenation and core energy while mitigating stress. This medicinal mushroom is another great one to take on a daily basis.
- Magnesium helps to reduce muscle cramping and may improve performance. Take magnesium before and after your work out.
- Protein powder can help increase performance and rebuild muscle. Pharmaca offers protein powder from a variety of sources, including whey, egg white and vegetables such as pea, hemp or soy.
- Proteolytic enzymes, such as bromelain, help to control inflammation, swelling and sprains. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Bromelain or Pharmaca’s Turmeric & Bromelain. These may be taken on a daily basis or following an injury to assist the body with repair.
- Zyflamend by New Chapter is an herbal blend that works to balance and promote the body’s natural, healthy inflammation process, and is a great alternative to ibuprofen. If you suffer from chronic pain or inflammation this can be a good addition to your daily supplement regimen.
- Arnica, both internally and externally, can help to reduce inflammation and is best taken immediately following an injury or painful event.
Lastly, if you do get injured while exercising, follow the R.I.C.E treatment: Rest your body; Ice your injury every hour; Compress with bandages, tape or a brace; and Elevate your injury.
Kate Brainard attended Bastyr University’s doctorate program in Naturopathic Medicine. She currently manages Pharmaca’s La Jolla store.