People who play sports need special nutrition to perform to their optimal level. Many sports enthusiasts depend on artificial supplements to enhance performance but are ignorant of what good food can actually do to their body. The main focus needs to be a good, balanced diet as per the sport they play which can be supplemented with supplements to help them perform better.
What is a supplement?
A supplement is something that is added to oneâ€™s diet, typically to make up for a nutritional deficiency but does not replace food. There are a host of supplements sold in the market with all possible claims but not all are useful. Nutritionist Neha Chandna lists out some useful supplements which can be taken by athletes.
Protein powders: Being the most popular supplements, there are many varieties of these in the market, the most popular one being whey protein. They come in various blends like concentrate, isolate, hydrolysed, etc. They are used by people who do weight training to help their broken muscles recover. They can also be taken by vegetarians to make up for the protein deficiency in their diets. A normal person needs 1 g/kg body weight protein/day whereas a sportsman may need 1.2-1.5 g/day depending on the sport they play.
Creatine: This is naturally produced by our kidneys and liver to give energy to our muscles. Creatine supplements can increase the total body mass and lean mass, improve performance in short-burst exercises like sprints, long jumps, 200 m running, basketball, football, etc. They also help weightlifters lift more weight, help in recovery and improve muscle strength. They do help in endurance activities like marathon, aerobics, etc.
The normal dose of creatine/day is 2-5 g. Creatine supplements are not recommended for anyone under 18 years of age as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women. Speak to a health professional before taking creatine supplements. Always read and follow the instructions on the package when taking it.
Caffeine: It is a natural stimulant found in tea, coffee and sports drinks in very high amounts. It helps you be awake, alert and improves endurance in athletes. It decreases perceived exertion during performance and may also increase fat burning during exercise. The recommended level of caffeine is not more than 400 mg/day (roughly 3 cups).
Branched chain Amino acid (BCAAs): They are made up of 3 amino acids â€“ isoleucine, leucine and valine â€“ which help improve muscle endurance and recovery and also boost immune system. The recommended dosage is between 3-5 g before and after training.
Glutamine: This is an amino acid which prevents muscle breakdown and reduces the chances of infection in athletes by improving immunity. Research has also found that glutamine supplements can help maintain muscle mass by preventing protein breakdown and improving glycogen synthesis thereby increasing muscle glycogen stores. It also helps maintain gut health. The recommended intake of glutamine is 3-4 g/day.
Sports drinks: These contain large amounts of sugar and proportionate amounts of electrolytes which are needed by athletes who are into endurance sports like marathon runners as these athletes lose huge amount of water, sodium and potassium through sweat. You may benefit from sports drinks if you do heavy exercise or sports for more than 45 minutes at a time.