With sports nutrition products, first do no harm

Ready to up your game? Would you like to bike longer, run faster, be more flexible or improve your strength?  Do you lack the energy to work out every day?  Does it feel like it takes longer to recover after a rigorous workout? Do you golf nine holes and ride a cart when you used to walk 18? 

Have you considered using energy enhancers, muscle builders, hydration drinks and recovery products? Do you gain weight when you use what are sold as sports nutrition products? Are you confused about what to look for?

Many conventional sports nutrition products, especially the most popular retail brands, contain artificial flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. Moreover, conventional sports products could be untested or contain ingredients that are unproven. Rather than testing products in clinical tests or with world-class athletes, many companies choose to introduce new products without scientific confirmation.

The Committee on Nutrition and Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recently stated: “Frequent or excessive intake of (high) caloric sports drinks can substantially increase the risk for overweight or obesity in children and adolescents.”

These and other health concerns should prompt you to think carefully about the brand you choose. You should look for a brand that’s safe; free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives; and widely used by Olympians and other world-class athletes.

Olympians are held to higher standards than most athletes. They’re subject to drug testing protocol 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. If their tests come back positive for the use of a prohibited substance, they’re banned from competition. So look for a company and brand with a proven track record with not only Olympians, but also other professional athletes. You spend a lot of time and effort to get fit and healthy, why choose a brand sold in a discount or grocery store?

Look for a brand that offers a fitness line with lower calories for most people and an endurance line for those competing in ultra events. These athletes require more calories than the average fitness buff.

The four products you need to enhance your workouts are an energy product, hydration product, muscle builder and recovery product.

The energy product should be used before and during your workouts. It should provide fast and lasting clean energy. Look for such ingredients as guayusa — an Amazonian superfood coveted for its energy, antioxidants and polyphenol content — as well as green coffee beans, natural green tea extract, L-tyrosine, L-theanine, B vitamins and vitamin D.

The hydration drink should include all six electrolytes whether you choose higher-calorie or no-calorie products.  You should consume this product before, during and after your workouts. A drink made with coconut water powder is preferred. Make sure there are no artificial ingredients.

Staying hydrated is critical for your health. Keeping hydrated helps the heart pump blood more easily through vessels to the muscles. Hydration also helps muscles work more efficiently.

“If you’re well hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard,” said John Batson, a sports medicine physician with Lowcountry Spine & Sport in Hilton Head Island, S.C., and an American Heart Association volunteer.

It’s also a important to keep tabs on your hydration if you’re traveling, Batson said. “You might sweat differently if you’re in a different climate.”

Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to such life-threatening illnesses as heat stroke.

Hydration is not just important during physical activity. Sitting in the sun on a hot or humid day, even if you’re not exercising, can also cause your body to need more fluids.

People who have a heart condition, are older than 50 or overweight could require extra precautions.

The next step in a solid sports nutrition regimen is the muscle-building phase. A good muscle builder should contain leucine, a branch chain amino acid that helps you preserve and build lean muscle. Look for a product that uses a cold filtration process to help preserve the bio actives. A good product will be clinically proven to naturally activate the body’s recovery process. The build product should be taken no more than 20 minutes after the workout and again two hours later for maximum results.

Last, but not least, consider taking a recovery product that relieves pain caused by overexertion. A good product contains tart cherry extract for pain and helps with sleep quality. Find a product that also includes a pain relief blend of boswellia and safflower extracts.

If you’re exercising less frequently because of poor results, soreness or lack of energy, try a good sports nutrition regimen. You’ll be glad you did.