Supplements (part 1)
By Leslie Knibb
Posted March 2013
I recently got the email below, from USAT email, promoting a webinar...
Advanced Nutrition for Triathletes
with Dr. Josh Axe
Wednesday, March 13 at 3 PM MDT
Do you want to race faster, improve endurance, and speed recovery? If so then you don't want to miss Advanced Nutrition for Triathletes by Dr. Josh Axe. Dr. Axe has worked with Olympic level swimmers including USA Nationals in 2009 and traveling to London in 2012. Dr. Axe will discuss: top superfoods for triathlon performance; natural foods and herbs that naturally increase endurance; best supplements to speed recovery; the #1 nutrition secret that most triathletes don't know; and nutrition advice Dr. Axe gives Olympic swimmers.
I love the first line. If I’m on the USAT email list, is there some reason why I wouldn’t want to race faster, improve endurance, and speed recovery? (he had me at faster) And, yet I’m not going to make the time or pay $25 to hear what Josh is going to tell me. Don’t we already know what “superfoods” to eat? If I haven’t been living under a rock of late, the list would include Kale, Sweet Potato, spinach, broccoli, Quinoa, strawberries, Almonds, Walnuts, the surprise listing of dark chocolate, and who hasn’t read a hundred times the magical qualities of blueberries? Michael Pollan nailed it in “In Defense of Foods: an Eater’s Manifesto”: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
If you eat all the right foods, not too much, and none of the junk foods we are tempted with every day, then your body should be getting most of what it needs to race faster, improve endurance, and speed recovery. If you miss some of the “superfoods”, however, the following are what I believe are the most important ones you might want to consider adding to your diet as an athlete.
The first supplement I am a believer in is D3. We all know that humans (and animals) need vitamin D, and that it is best absorbed via the sun. But since we also know that the sun can give us melanoma and that we live too far north of the equator to actually get enough vitamin D from being outside, a supplement can help provide what you need and otherwise can't get.
Vitamin D is critical for bone health and our immune system. The biological function that Vitamin D supplies is maintaining normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. In Vitamin D’s ability to aid in absorption of calcium, it provides the body assistance in forming and maintaining strong bones. It has been shown to actually increase bone mineral density, decreasing fractures. Vitamin D also acts as an immune system regulator. Plus, a recent study indicated that people who supplemented with D3, felt better overall, not realizing prior to supplementation that they had not been feeling as well as they did after taking the vitamin. And the latest finding of benefits of Vitamin D include guarding against the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets and osteomalacia, which results in muscular weakness in addition to its impact on bones. US Olympian marathon runner, Deena Castor found herself sidelined with a stress fracture for close to half a year, having run for months on a stress fracture, unbeknownst to her. Doctors attributed her injury to a low level of D, despite her excellent diet and all the hours she was logging outside.
How much should I take? The medical community agrees that Vitamin D is an important supplement, but the amount we need is currently under dispute. Recommended daily units range from 400-600I.U.s to 2,000-3,000I.U.s. since D has only been found to start being toxic at 41,000-46,000 I.U.s, the recommendation is to jumpstart your D intake on the higher end, about 2,000I.U.s if you haven't been supplementing at all, and a few weeks later, reduce the intake to about 800-1,000I.U.s daily. Consult with your doctor before taking any new medications or supplements.
Reference: Office of Dietary Supplements (NIH): Vitamin D
The second supplement you may want to re-visit is Magnesium. Found in potatoes, bananas, pumpkin seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, walnuts, peanuts and spinach, Magnesium is a vital mineral that is responsible for 300-700 chemical reactions in the human body daily and is required by virtually every cell in our bodies. Cardiac activity, muscle contraction, nerve function, blood pressure regulation, hormonal interactions, bone health, our immune systems, Magnesium is involved in all of these, plus our synthesis of proteins, fats, and nucleic acids.
Our energy metabolism relies on magnesium so much so that a deficiency or shortfall can result in a reduction of energy production. This in turn could lead to fatigue, lethargy, a reduction in power, and even muscle twitches and cramps. Continued or chronic deficiency in magnesium is linked with reduced bone mineral density, increasing the risk for osteoporosis, along with anemia, irregular heart rate, and often depression.
For athletes, the benefits of magnesium can include improved performance through its energy-related and nervous system functions, and magnesium assists with clearing out or reducing the accumulation of lactic acid. Because Magnesium is lost through sweat, athletes need to keep an eye on their intake, increasing Magnesium as the workload and/or sweat rate increases. While that hard session may be the root cause of your fatigue, a loss of magnesium may also be a contributor.
Magnesium needs to be ingested daily, as the body doesn't produce its own. In your diet, include leafy greens, nuts and seeds, or take a daily supplement to make sure you're not deficient. Recommended daily allowance is 300-350 mg for women and 400-450 mg for men, but research suggests that athletes can safely ingest 500-800 mgs a day. And, like Vitamin D, many doctors suggest taking in even more.
Reference: Office of Dietary Supplements (NIH): Magnesium
Lastly, a supplement one might consider is CoQ10. It is a vitamin-like compound found in our bodies, in the energy-producing center of our cells. It is critical in producing energy at a cellular level. It is also an antioxidant, protecting against disease. CoQ10 can be found in fish, especially in Sardines and Mackerel, as well as beef heart and liver (there’s also a pill).
Concentrations of CoQ10 decline with age. And people with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Parkinshons show an increased reduction on a cellular level of CoQ10.
Studies are mixed on CoQ10, of late, but for heart health and energy, doctors agree that it is a supplement more people should consider, especially those who are aging, or seeking more energy.