We have all seen it time and time again. Athletes, and those who are so inclined, pushing themselves hard every single day in the gym, on the track, in competition. All go, all the time. That’s great, but athletes (although incredible) tend to have an issue with “taking care” of themselves until something goes wrong. Not enough sleep, not enough rest, not fuelling their body correctly, and not giving themselves the proper tools to be their best.
Athletes, believe it or not, are like children. They just want to do the fun stuff and hate having to do the boring stuff like cook, rest and take their vitamins. Lets face it, it’s way easier to knock back a protein shake and some BCAA’s then it is to make a full meal. So what should an over trained athlete who isn’t sleeping enough and probably isn’t hitting their RDA of important nutrients do to get themselves on track? In fact, what should anyone wanting to live optimally do?
Eat to perform is all about giving your body what it needs to meet the demands of your everyday life, in and out of the gym. Yes a huge part is eating clean foods that are minimally processed, but good supplementation is also a vital part of anyones, not just an athletes, life. There is so much marketing and research out there on supplements – what to take, how much, who needs what – that it can be confusing to sift through and narrow down. Here is what we recommend for those who just feel they are missing something: LUNA, Omega 3 (DHA and EPA), Magnesium, Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2, and B vitamins.
Importance of Sleep:
This is a note to everyone, stop disregarding the importance of sleep! It seems that the new thing to brag about in this fast paced modern society is about how little sleep one can function on. “Girl, I got 5 hours sleep last night!” Nice one, job well done, oh and by the way isn’t that your fourth coffee this morning and how do those squats feel? Heavy? I bet.
Not getting enough sleep doesn’t make you tough or impressive, it actually negatively affects your mental state, your training, and your body composition. Fuelling your training, and your life, isn’t just about calories in and calories out. Look at a baby. They do two things (well, three if you count crying). They eat, and they sleep. Why? Because the body requires unbelievable amounts of energy to grow. If you don’t get adequate sleep then when does your body have time to recover?
Make sure you get you sleep CYCLE on TRACK…
Now, we understand that getting your mind and body relaxed at night to get your eight hours sleep can be difficult. Is your circadian rhythm functioning normally? When it is dark your body releases more melatonin, and when it is bright there is a reduction in melatonin and and increase in excitatory hormones. If you, like most people in this technology driven world, then you probably have your laptop, phone, TV, or reading light on while your in bed. Well believe it or not you are effecting that chemical balance.
LUNA is designed to help you get a good nights sleep. It is a combination of natural ingredients that function to calm you and get you ready to dream of that medal or trophy your aiming for. if you find it hard to slow down and seem to be restless at night then I suggest you give this a go. What is nice about this product is that we really do wake up feeling ready to conquer the world, no need for six espresso shots and a pre-workout now.
Omega 3 (DHA/EPA):
Half the battle of performance is recovery. There is only so much your body can do in the gym that will help your performance goals. The time you spend recovering has equal if not more weight than the time spent training. Omega 3 fatty acids are key in the recovery process. DHA and EPA are two essential fatty acids that are found in fish and they support healthy inflammatory responses after exercise. This is though too help reduce that post exercise soreness we all know and love. These fatty acids also have a role in building and maintaining muscles!
How can these essential fatty acids help your performance? Well, first of all they will speed up the recovery process.
When you do intense exercise your muscles are left with tiny microscopic tears. When these tears heal they make you stronger and faster. The powerful anti-inflammatory properties of Omega 3s allow for this recovery to happen. Let me also add that they make DOMs a thing of the past. We all know the feeling the day after a solid training session where our muscles ache and the stairs often seem like an impossible feat. The Omega 3s regulation of inflammatory responses can reduce these uncomfortable sensations!
Secondly, they make you stronger.
Adding Omega 3s into your diet can not only decrease muscle breakdown but they also increase the process by which your muscles transform the protein you eat day to day into your muscles. In 2011 a study conducted by researchers in Washington University found that Omega 3s increased the subjects’ ability to build muscle in response to insulin and amino acids that are released during exercise (Smith et al., 2012).
Thirdly, they can increase your reaction time.
Our brain consists of 60% fat. It’s no surprise that omega 3 fatty acids help our brain do it’s thing. These fatty acids have been shown to improve cognitive functioning and play a huge role in visual processing and signalling (Chang, Ke, and Chen, 2010). They are also vital components of nerve endings, neutrons, and muscle membranes. A study conducted by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine looked at soccer players who took omega 3s for four weeks and noticed a dramatic change in there reaction time (Guzmán et al., 2011)!
But will they make your workout easier?
Omega 3s decrease heart rate and the amount of oxygen your body uses every minute. On game day that is a pretty big deal! It means your body need less oxygen than your opponent does, thus you need to expend less energy.
However, the benefits of these essential fatty acids goes above and beyond workout recovery, athletic goals, and aesthetic improvement. They are great for cardiovascular, brain, joint, eye and skin health. Here’s the catch though, your body cannot make these omega 3 fatty acids by itself. Omega 3s come in three forms; EPA, DHA, and ALA. EPA and DHA are long chained fatty acids can be found in fish and fish oils, while ALA is found nuts and seeds. Your body can only use the long chain fatty acids and the conversion of ALA to EPA and then to DHA is not exactly efficient. To get enough DHA and EPA a day (500 to 1,000mg) you would need to eat at least two servings of fatty fish a week and a whole lot of nuts, seeds, and healthy oils to get enough ALA. Even the healthiest people don’t get enough through foods alone. This is where a good supplement comes in.
Approximately 50% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is an extremely important mineral. It has a role in over 300 biochemical reactions! For example it is critical for energy production, protein synthesis, muscle contraction and relaxation, and insulin metabolism. if you are lacking enough magnesium then your performance will most definitely suffer due to lactic acid build ups, muscle cramping, poor recovery, and you can even experience twitchy heart arrhythmia.
How are so many of us, especially athletes, deficient in such an important mineral? The answer is simple. Exercise. Strenuous exercise can cause a loss of magnesium through sweat and urine by as much as 20%. We may think we are getting enough magnesium in our diet. However, while magnesium is found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, spinach, beans, avocado, nuts, dark chocolate, and bananas. many of these foods are deficient in minerals in general because of bad soil and untested growing methods. Add to that the lack of variation in many athletes diets, it’s no wonder there are deficiencies.
When supplementing your diet with a magnesium tablet make sure you check the label. Magnesium that is presented as Magnesium Glycinate or malate are much better tolerated by the digestive system and more readily absorbed by the body than other cheaper forms such as magnesium oxide or magnesium carbonate.
Vitamin D is probably the most underrated vitamin in the world. However, it is actually more like a hormone than a vitamin. It is produced when the body is exposed to sunlight, however, most of us are deficient as we don’t spend enough time out in the sun to make it. Even if we decided to frolic around in the sun for a couple of hours EVERY day, we actually still wouldn’t get enough.
Vitamin D is such an impressive substance. It works with Calcium to improve bone density, helps reduce inflammation, reduces the risk of colon and breast cancer, improves mood, fights infection, and it helps the brain to release melatonin so you can fall asleep faster! Vitamin D is so effective that in 1927 a controversy arose in athletic world regarding vitamin D.
The “German Swimmers Association” decided to use sun lamps on their athletes to boost Vitamin D and thus performance. The controversy arose as some people considered this “athletic unfairness”, but it was just ensuring athletes got enough vitamin D! Many people are deficient in Vitamin D so treating this can help athletes prevent stress fractures, improve reaction time, muscle strength, speed, and endurance. Now we wouldn’t recommend sitting under a sun lamp or tanning bed to get your vitamin D, much easier and safer to take a supplement.
B vitamins are important for producing energy, detoxifying which is needed after have training, and improving mood by acting as neurotransmitter cofactors. Building and repairing muscles cuts into your B vitamin stores. If you are training well and lifting heavy or damaging your muscles in work then you need to take extra b vitamins to help rebuild and strengthen your muscles. ideally look for B-1, B-2, B-6 and B-12 as they are the most absorbable forms for your body.
We already discussed the importance of vitamin D, but pairing it with vitamin K2 is going to really make a big difference. Vitamin K helps with blood coagulation. There are many types of vitamin K but we will just look at Vitamin K1 and K2 (MK-7 to be specific).
Vitamin K1 is naturally occurring and found in those vegetables we all know and love. Its main function is to direct calcium to your bones, because “them bones, them bones, need calcium”. Vitamin K2 (MK-7) is the most bioavailable form of Vitamin K and is also considered the most active form and is covert to vitamin K1 in the body by your gut bacteria.
Vitamin K is important because it increases the production of two proteins called osteocalcin and collagen. Osteocalcin is actually produced by cells called osteoblasts, and it’s function is to direct calcium to the bone and support mineralization. To break it down, osteocalcin takes calcium and puts it into your bones where it belongs. What about collagen? Well, we have all heard of the importance of collagen for our skin to keep it wrinkle free, same idea for bones. Collage gives bones elasticity and provides the framework for your bones. As an athlete, or just an active person, you want to make sure your bones are well taken care of to ensure you avoid diseases like osteoporosis in later life.
So hopefully you know have a better understanding of what your body needs to perform. It is great to be active, but it is just as important to take care of what your body needs. Think longevity, big picture, your future. Be an athlete at eighty, not just eighteen.
Smith, G.I., Atherton, P., Reeds, D.N., Mohammed, S.B., Rankin, D., Rennie, M.J. and Mittendorfer, B. (2012) ‘Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperaminoacidemia-hyperinsulinemia in healthy young and middle aged men and women’, 121(6).
Chang, C., Ke, D. and Chen, J. (2010) ‘Essential fatty acids and human brain’, Acta neurologica Taiwanica., 18(4), pp. 231–41.
Guzmán, J.F., Esteve, H., Pablos, C., Pablos, A., Blasco, C. and Villegas, J.A. (2011) ‘DHA- Rich Fish oil improves complex reaction time in female elite soccer players’, 10(2).
Melamed ML, Michos ED, Post W, Astor B. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D levels and the risk of mortality in the general population. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):1629-37
Autier P, Gandini S. Vitamin D supplementation and total mortality: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(16):1730-7.
Athletic Performance and Vitamin D , JOHN J. CANNELL, BRUCE W. HOLLIS, MARC B. SORENSON, TIMOTHY N. TAFT, and JOHN J. B. ANDERSON