More power for athletes
How micronutrients support consumers exercising regularly
Physical exercise is like medicine with no adverse side effects. It makes the cardiovascular system stronger, helps to lose weight, and as an added bonus improves overall mood. Starting out on a more active lifestyle can also be the start of a healthier diet.
Apart from professional athletes, there are two types of consumers that are interested in functional sports nutrition, Performance Nutrition and Active Nutrition consumers. Performance Nutrition consumers go to the gym daily for a high intensity workout. They have specific performance and body goals. This consumer group also includes so-called Weekend Warriors. They exercise at a high intensity level, but only on the weekend, or run marathons for example. Performance Nutrition consumers use products on a functional basis to achieve their goals.
Active Nutrition consumers engage in exercise on a regular basis and at a low intensity level. They are taking a long-term and proactive approach to health. They use products as a better-for-you option and want to incorporate them into their daily diet.
Micronutrients can optimise performance and help the body during and after exercise
For professional and ambitious amateur athletes, it’s important to match the diet, especially the intake of nutrients and electrolytes, to the training regime. Otherwise the athlete risks a drop in performance, muscle cramps, greater susceptibility to infectious diseases and higher risk of injury. Micronutrients are key aids in supporting professional athletes and ambitious sportspeople. They can optimise performance and ensure shorter regeneration times after intensive training or competition.
Protecting the immune system when engaged in sports
Exercise has immunomodulatory effects. Acute exercise increases the total number of leucocytes in the blood, for example. A study revealed that from zero to 3 hours after a single bout of aerobic exercise, the total leucocyte numbers went up two- to threefold and returned to baseline levels within 24 hours after exercise sensation.
Exercise causes increased oxygen consumption in vivo; however, a small part of the oxygen consumed leads to formation of reactive oxygen species. Thus, repeated exercise bouts or intensified training without sufficient recovery may increase the risk of illness. This makes it virtual to support the immune system with a healthy diet and the intake of special micronutrients. As part of a healthy diet, the right micronutrients can act as free radical scavengers and guard against infections. Relevant micronutrients are vitamins A, C, D, E, B1, B6, B12, zinc, selenium, magnesium and copper, together with secondary plant substances like bioflavonoids.
Performance and regeneration
B-vitamins like vitamin B-6 play an important role in the metabolic pathways required for exercise. Vitamin B12 assists with DNA synthesis, which is necessary for the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B1 is essential for a healthy heart.
Minerals are essential nutrients as well, and are important for most body functions. Some studies have shown mineral deficiencies in athletes. These can impact sports performance negatively. Magnesium, for example, is crucial for muscle contraction and for numerous processes that comprise energy metabolism. Athletes lose high amounts of this mineral through perspiration. This can lead to cramps and diminished performance.
Calcium is another electrolyte that is excreted in sweat. If stocks are not adequately replenished, bone mass is degraded. This increases the risk of stress fractures. In addition, a calcium deficiency can lead to an over-sensitivity of the peripheral nervous system and trigger cramps. Taking calcium helps athletes regenerate better. Taking it in combination with vitamin D boosts the integration of calcium into the bone structure and so contributes to maintaining muscle function.
Potassium promotes the storage of glycogen in muscle tissue. This mineral thus plays an important role in regeneration by helping to replenish empty energy reserves quickly. This mineral is also lost at an increased rate through perspiration.
Athletic training, which leads to changes such as increased vascularisation (formation of new
blood vessels), increased red blood cell concentration (increase in hematocrit) and increased
hemoglobin concentration in the blood, can increase iron requirements. Iron requirements are estimated to be 70% higher in athletes compared to non-athletes. Iron deficiency anemia reduces performance by reducing oxygen transport.
L-carnitine and coenzyme Q10 are vitamin-like substances that are important for athletes, because the mitochondria need them to create energy from long-chain fatty acids. Their combination offers synergies which can give optimum performance. Q10 also has antioxidative potential and thus helps in the formation of radical scavengers.
Creatine is a substance that occurs naturally in the body and is important for all muscle cells. In the form of phosphocreatine, it delivers energy. It supplies a reservoir of phosphate to rapidly replenish the energy that muscles use up, by regenerating supplies of ATP. Creatine thus enables the muscles to maintain maximum performance during short, intensive bursts of activity. Creatine monohydrate may improve recovery from and adaptation to intense training.
Muscles need amino acids to grow. The latest findings show that specific amino acids also play a big role in strenuous endurance sports. The problem is probably not one of quantity but rather a question of the combination of different high-quality amino acids. For competitive athletes, “high-quality” means essential amino acids (e.g., leucine, isoleucine, valine) or amino acids which cannot be created fast enough in response to high levels of activity (e.g., histidine, arginine, ornithine, glutamine). They not only help to build muscles (anabolic effect), but data also shows that supplementation with branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) before and after exercise has beneficial effects for reducing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis. In addition, many of these substances such as glutamine promote regeneration after exercise and guard against an increased susceptibility to infectious disease.
Batatinha HAP, Biondo LA, Lira FS, Castell LM, Rosa-Neto JC. Nutrients, immune system, and exercise: Where will it take us? Nutrition. 2019 May;61:151-156.
Carlsohn A, Braun H, Großhauser M, et al. Position of the working group sports nutrition of the German Nutrition Society (DGE): minerals and vitamins in sports nutrition. Dtsch Z Sportmed. 2020; 71: 208-215.
Kendall KL, Moon JR, Fairman CM, et al. Ingesting a preworkout supplement containing caffeine, creatine, β-alanine, amino acids, and B vitamins for 28 days is both safe and efficacious in recreationally active men. Nutr Res. 2014 May;34(5):442-9.
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