Sports nutrition supplements have been used in various forms for many decades by athletes and sports enthusiasts. Even as early as the 1940s, research indicated that supplemental protein could increase muscle mass if used by strength training athletes. However the last decade has seen the evolution of a multimillion dollar, sports nutrition industry.
As the sports nutrition industry has grown, the products have become more advanced and the scientific scrutiny and testing has increased. It is fair to say that as the industry becomes more mainstream, the collective responsibility to ensure objective and concise information is readily available, increases.
In their very broadest sense, sports nutrition products are designed to improve performance and help aid recovery from intense exercise. Many sports nutrition supplements are in fact food supplements which mean that they provide nutrients that are found in everyday foods but in a concentrated form. For example, whey protein is exceptionally high in protein (typically 80%) and can provide the same levels of protein found in a chicken breast but without the inconvenience of having to prepare and cook it.
Foodfacts.com observes that, as the name suggests, sports nutrition supplements should be complementary to a balanced diet. The majority of a person’s nutrients should always come from a diet being rich in unprocessed foods, using supplements to fill in any nutritional gaps.
Sports Nutrition Limitations
As the sports nutrition industry has grown in size, marketing by companies has increased. Unfortunately, some of the communication used builds unrealistic expectations. As someone who may be recommending sports nutrition products to users, it is key to understand what can be realistically achieved by using sports nutrition products. Sports nutrition products are not miracle potions, they will not yield huge gains in performance, however they will aid the user when combined with other important factors.
In its simplest form, the key pillars to achieving physical goals fall into the following areas:
Diet – Arguably the most important factor. With a diet that isn’t tailored towards the correct goals, the goals may well not be realized. In its broadest sense, diet will also include the use of sports nutrition supplements, although it is important that they are not the main source of nutrition.
Training - Without the correct exercise plan, the body will not be subjected to the right stressors from which it can adapt. For example someone wanting to put on mass would not train the same way as someone preparing for a marathon.
Rest - As the adage suggests, ‘you don’t grow in the gym’. Essentially recovery takes place in the days after training. If there is insufficient rest, training gains will be hindered and the body may go into a state of over training.
The most important aspect when recommending sports nutrition products is making sure that they are suitable for the user. Understanding the user’s goals and any potential intolerance is key to finding the right product for any given person. Additionally having an understanding of their lifestyle (active/desk job) and diet will also play a factor in the type of products that are suited.
Be sure to consult with a physician or nutrition professional before making changes to your diet.
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