KEY SUPPLEMENTS FOR ENDURANCE: ENERGY AND HYDRATION (1/5)
It must be acknowledged that today's sports nutrition has become quite stigmatized - even more so than decades ago when the first "canisters" of powdered egg proteins appeared on the shelves of rare stores. So it is not uncommon to hear, "Ah, nothing beats Carniolan sausage". At this point, it is necessary to explain to athletes that while Carniolan sausage really tastes good it does not replace the key nutrients lost by a cyclist or a swimmer during hard training. Therefore, in a series of five articles, we will first of all clarify two notions: the importance of replacing key micro- and macronutrients, and the importance of general health during stressful exercise.
Sports nutrition for endurance sports (cycling, swimming, running, triathlon, football, basketball, rowing ...) is highly specialized and differs from fitness nutrition. Of course, it is important to note that strength exercises have long been - and even more so in recent times - an increasingly important part of endurance training, both from the standpoint of achieving optimal results and health itself. Without strengthening the knee ligaments (warming up, stabilization, proprioception, and of course strength itself) you can get injured, but equally important - the injuries are also due to the lack of micro- and macronutrients that can not be replaced during a long-lasting endurance activity with only a Carniolan sausage. We recall the story of a skier - if we are not mistaken, he was even a ski instructor - whose calf muscle (musculus triceps surae) snapped in one of the more absurd situations. During ski touring, he went to take a leak behind a spruce in his ski boots. He stepped on his fingers, and ... due to the lost electrolytes through dehydration and lack of amino acids, muscle tearing occurred. Of course, as this was in the winter time, he did not think about all the sweat and the salt he had excised, while famine was also not of primary concern in the sunny weather of the beautiful mountain peaks. Therefore, we shall first deal with energy and hydration, as this, more than anything else, is connected with the general health of the organism.
The energy that the body produces from all macronutrients (fat, hydrates, proteins) is the engine of movement. More precisely, glycogen is a polysaccharide that accumulates in our muscles and liver (an average person stores about 450g there), which the body consumes for the movement of skeletal muscles and is also to a great extent used by our brains. During endurance activity, it breaks down and the cyclist is able to press the pedal even in the biggest slope. The second part of the equation is hydration - because our cells are mainly composed of water, it is necessary to drink enough liquid during its evaporation. Each percent of dehydration is associated with the reduction of a few percents in overall capacity. Evaporation of fluids (sweat, urine) also excretes minerals or electrolytes: calcium, magnesium, chloride, potassium, sodium. When we become short of these, the first result - in addition to fatigue - is the start of muscle cramps. Usually, cramps are not caused by a lack of magnesium, as is often mistakenly believed, but because of the non-optimal ratio of the ions of all minerals (e.g.g overexcitation), so adding only one mineral can do more harm than good. Of course, cramps are also caused by the overload itself when the muscle is in the anabolic phase and no mineral can prevent this.
Another, more important aspect of hydration is the dimension of health. You know why we run a 42-kilometer marathon? We are running in memory of the Athenian warrior Filippides, who after the victory over the Persian army at the battle of the Marathon ran for 42 kilometers to Athens where he shouted "Great Fortune, we won," and then he collapsed and died. If history is to be believed, this is most likely due to the lack of electrolytes and incorrect translation of electrical signals in the heart muscle.
What can we do to achieve the best results and in the healthiest way? A weekend runner will probably be OK with a mix of raspberry juice and a pinch of salt in a bottle, but for someone who trains regularly, intensely, and whose body, despite enjoying this sport, is under stress, the first and most urgent thing that he/she will need is a hydration beverage. It is necessary to know that today - either because of passion or (un)healthy rivalry - many "recreationalists" train more intensely than professional athletes 40 years ago. And what does a good hydration beverage contain?
As already mentioned, the body needs a reliable source of energy. This is achieved by combining different types of hydrates (dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose). Ideally, it should also contain amino acids (BCAA is an abbreviation for the three most important branched-chain amino acids) - these are the basic building blocks of proteins, and when the muscle decays due to effort and lack of amino acids, these amino acids are continually fixing the muscle. The combination of sugars and BCAA also contributes something else - it lowers our cortisol stress hormone, which makes us less tired and subject to virologic diseases during the so-called window period (after training). And finally, the main thing, minerals or electrolytes. Without them, there would be no transmission of nerve signals, muscle contractions, without them we would experience cramps during movement, and last but not least, more important organs would start to function incorrectly. The loss of electrolytes can be compensated by salt for a light to medium demanding activity, while for more demanding and long-lasting activities, hydration drinks with the optimum ratio of electrolytes and, of course, minerals in the best-absorbed form are recommended. An athlete is provided with hydration drinks for the training of medium intensity, where the body requires more calories and the one for the most extreme exertions where cramps and already certain problems in muscle contractions are suspected due to overtraining.
Today, special attention is paid to our youngest athletes - parents often ask us if it is safe for young people to start using sports nutrition at an early age. The recommended hydration beverages are not only free from harmful additives and artificial colors but primarily replace the essential substances that are lost during training (electrolytes, amino acids) - that means the child’s organism returns to the optimum state faster. In spite of numerous pro & con arguments which various kinesiologists are advocating, the addition of electrolytes, according to doctors, above all nephrologists, is healthy. Immediate replacement of electrolytes namely results in their more balanced plasma concentration, which indirectly helps the body (especially the kidneys) to flush more quickly the waste materials that arise from the breakdown of muscle fibers (creatinine, sulfites). This means that our children are healthier, more rested, and faster.
In the next article, we shall describe regeneration - this is the second set of supplements which are usually forgotten by many who already have "everything they need".