Nutrition

Why Platinum Performance Minerals are Critical for Swim Training

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How minerals may play a role in managing muscle cramps, and why magnesium may be the missing link in your diet

Minerals are naturally occurring substances derived from the earth that are important for a healthy body. Some minerals—specifically, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, are also electrolytes. Electrolytes are charged particles, and are key for regulating fluid balance, muscle contraction, and nerve conduction.

Substantial amounts of Americans do not get the recommended amounts of calcium, magnesium, and potassium in their diet, according to recent survey data. Athletes are especially prone to dietary deficiencies, but also losses through sweating. Read more


Vitamin D and Athletes

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Even Swimmers In a Training Program May Need Vitamin D

By Erin Kelley, MS, RD

Since the 1920s, vitamin D was thought to only be necessary for preventing rickets (a bone disease), but recently has become widely popular. In the last few years, scientists and health professionals got a wake-up call when learning that this long-forgotten vitamin had so many beneficial effects on health—ranging from cancer to diabetes to fighting the flu. Even the government officially raised its recommended daily intake levels in 2010, due to the attention and scientific support.

Roughly 75% of Americans have insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels. This is due in part to our modern lifestyle of wearing clothes, being indoors, and wearing sunblock. Athletes typically do not meet the required dietary intakes. Here’s a look at how vitamin D may affect athletes:

Vitamin D improves athletic performance

Vitamin D is produced in the body when exposed to UVB rays from the sun. Studies done decades ago in both Russia and Germany suggest that use of sunlamps (lamps which give off UVB rays, thereby producing vitamin D in the body) improved muscle strength in world-class athletes. In one of the studies, one group of sprinters was exposed to the sunlamps; the other group was not. Both underwent the same training for the 100-meter dash. Those without the sunlamps had low sprint times. The runners exposed to sunlamps actually improved their sprint time by 7.4 percent!
Another study testing vertical jumping ability done in 2009 showed that adolescent athletes with the lowest levels of vitamin D weren’t able to jump as high as those with higher blood levels. Finally, observational studies show athlete’s peak performance is in late summer, when they’ve had enough time to store vitamin D from the sun. Performance (measured by maximal oxygen uptake) tended to decline as the winter grew near—even though training remained the same.

Vitamin D improves muscle strength and recovery

Vitamin D helps muscle fibers to develop and grow normally, and it affects the size and number of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Research shows muscle strength improves when those who are deficient in vitamin D attain normal vitamin D levels.

What’s more, low vitamin D levels are associated with higher inflammation and inflammatory disease risk. Inflammation is a normal part of exercise and training—and as a result, compounds in the body called “cytokines” are produced. Vitamin D reduces cytokine production, thereby allowing the body to recover quicker between heavy training.

Vitamin D improves bone health

Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and maintains bone mineral density—in other words, it keeps bones strong. Strong bones mean less risk for developing stress fractures, which can sideline athletes. This is especially important for swimmers who may not get as much impact-exercise as say, runners do.

Vitamin D improves immune health

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009 looked at nearly 19,000 Americans and found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood were more likely to suffer from the cold/flu virus.

Optimizing your performance

Peak athletic performance is estimated to occur when vitamin D levels in the blood are between >32-50 ng/mL. Food sources include fish (4 oz. canned salmon or tuna provides roughly 600 IU vitamin D), fortified milk and other fortified foods. A word of caution: taking more than 5,000 IU per day may worsen athletic performance. Besides, the Institute of Medicine’s upper limit is set at 4,000 IU per day. Getting a blood test done at the doctor’s office is the only way to know what your vitamin D level is.

If your swimming training program is indoors and you use sunscreen for times that you’re outside, it may be a good idea to get your vitamin D level checked.

Did you know?

  • Sunscreen with SPF 8 or higher completely blocks UVB rays, which prevents vitamin D production in the body
  • It is nearly impossible to get too much vitamin D from the sun, since vitamin D production in the body stops when the body senses it has enough
  • Individuals with dark skin have a lower ability to produce vitamin D from the sun
  • Fish is one of the few food sources of vitamin D. Dietary supplements are a convenient way to obtain the nutrient
  • Vitamin D3 is more bioavailable than vitamin D2. If using supplements, look for the D3 form
  • The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU for most adults and children over age 1

Erin Kelley, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


L-carnitine shown to improve athletic performances

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L-carnitine is a molecule formed from two amino acids and is known to improve the breakdown of fats and fatty acids and convert them into energy in the form of ATP. An efficient production of ATP is vital to high-level athletic performance. L-carnitine has also been shown to be beneficial to the heart and brain.

The problem with L-carnitine is that until recently, it was not understood how to get the molecule into the muscle. Researchers Benjamin T. Wall, Francis Stephens and others at the University of Nottingham Medical School in the UK reported in the Journal of Physiology that L-carnitine is readily transported into the muscle in the presence of insulin1. Since insulin is a banned substance and cannot be taken (except by diabetics that do not produce it), they found that by combining L-carnitine with a carbohydrate drink mix, called Vitargo S2, that causes an increase in insulin production, it also caused a significant increase in muscle L-carnitine over a 4-month period. Read more


Food supplements setting up for golden London Olympics

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Improved anti-doping testing methods will make it almost impossible for athletes to blame contaminated food supplements if they are caught for doping at next year’s Olympiad in London, a science congress has heard. Read the full article at NUTRAingredients.com


Even Swimmers Need to Keep an Eye on Blood Pressure

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We all know a friend or two that can eat anything they want and still look great. We all know athletes who can show up to practice just occasionally and still swim pretty darn fast. Let’s face it, some people are just genetically ahead of the game. That said though, in the long run, I firmly believe the old adage, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Part of working hard, of course, includes how we all take care of our personal nutrition. And to a further extent, how we keep track of our own health with proactive measures such as keeping an eye on blood pressure.

For many athletes, something as simple as checking blood pressure is a notion that simply gets no attention, especially through the mid-to-late 20′s. After all, we work out hard for hours a day, five or six days a week–and sometimes seven–so surely we’re healthy, right? Well, depending on where you fall in the definition of “healthy,” only maybe. A new review of information by the Heart and Stroke Foundation has found that patients with even “high-normal” blood pressure are still at an increased risk of suffering from a stroke. So, where’s your blood pressure at? Especially as you get older–Masters swimmers in particular–you’ll want to know. Read more


Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Processed Meat Eaters

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I write a lot about sport-specific nutritional topics, but today let’s transition a bit to something that is good information for all people, parents and students, swimmers and non-swimmers alike.

I’ve always been a bit enamored by the number of kids I see eating hot dogs during swim meets. This might be particularly localized to the Pacific Northwest, as the main pool in the area has a hot dog stand right in the lobby, but even if that’s the case, it’s a pretty interesting site to see: Young Johnny, preparing to give it his all to make his Senior Sectionals cut has put the hours in the pool, he has sweat and cried during his training, he has listened to his coach’s every word, done everything his body could possibly do. And now, at the moment of truth, the hour before his race he’s…. eating a hot dog. Probably not the best idea. But, that’s another column. Instead, in this column, I’ll focus on some new research that has been released about why, in general, it’s best for all of us to avoid processed meats.

Coming out of the Harvard School of Public Health and appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, research is now showing us that people who eat processed meats are at a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. The findings, which were compiled after following the diets of more than 200,000 people for a decade, found that even just two-ounces a day of processed meat, such as those hot dogs, bacon, salami or bologna, increased the risk of developing diabetes by as much as 50%. Read more


Caffeine: Good for Energy, Good for Memory

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Caffeine has long been a much-debated pre-workout energizer. Adults ponder whether the drug found in an infinite number of beverages and foods—from chocolate to soda to, of course, coffee—is actually beneficial to their training. When you dig into the facts behind caffeine, the research is undeniable: It is effective. Period. But now, a new study backs up a premise that has been gaining steam over the last few years: Caffeine can be good for your brain, too.

A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease shows that caffeine can have a significantly beneficial effect against the production of beta amyloid, which is a sticky protein that can clog the brain. Caffeine, dosed at the range achieved in four-to-five cups of coffee daily, helps prevent this protein build-up and subsequent blockage. Read more


Activated Stabilized Oxygen (ASO)

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ASO is an all natural supplement containing one of the highest concentrations of activated oxygen available. It is pH balanced, non-toxic and safe to use orally. It contains distilled water, sodium chloride, bio-available oxygen and essential trace minerals. Learn more about ASO and how and why it can help you reach your full potential for best performance possible by watching the below video presentation. Read more


Q&A – Meal choices

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Many questions I get through e-mail and from my clients in person resonate around meal choices at various times. The following e-mail is one I received a couple of weeks back that I thought would make for a great column:

Nathan,

I just watched a video with an Olympian who said that protein before bed can make you put on bodyfat and carbohydrates were the way to go according to his nutritionist. I’ve always thought you shouldn’t eat before bed. Can you give me some advice on what’s proper?

Thanks,
Kawika

Before I get into my response here, I want to mention I have not seen the video in question and since there was no link included, I’m not sure of the context or even who said it. Therefore, it’s highly likely that the information in the video was misinterpreted. I say that in particular because in addition to my own research and experiences, I have the pleasure of coming into contact with dozens of health and fitness professionals every year and I’ve never met a single one that believes protein before bed is bad, let alone preferring carbohydrates before nighttime rest. Read more


Pre-Race Eating: Stick With What Works

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This weekend Sectionals are going on up in the Pacific Northwest. This is an exciting time for athletes, coaches and families and countless lifetime bests come out of the meet. It’s a chance to showcase all the hard work athletes have put in all season long. It’s for this very reason I was pretty surprised to get an e-mail from a family I’ve known for quite some time mentioning how their child “felt better than ever” going into the meet, but didn’t swim a single personal best. They were confused as to how this could be and related that their coach was also clueless. After some back and forth it seemed pretty clear to me that the main culprit was an unfortunate nutrition plan before competition.

Without going too far into a single athlete’s learning experience, I’m instead going to take the opportunity to discuss an old, yet still important, lesson: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Translated to your pre-race nutrition program: If you haven’t eaten it before, don’t start eating it now. Read more


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