Monday, March 10, 2008

What kind of carbohydrate? continue...


The amount of protein needed by athletes is a controversial subject which has been debated for many years. Traditionally, weightlifters and athletes in other 'power' sports have believed that consuming vast quantities of protein will enhance muscle development. On the other hand, scientists have generally maintained that the protein needs of all athletes can be met by the same recommended daily allowances (RDA) as those for sedentary individuals.

Many research studies over the past decade have not resolved the controversy. However, as a very small amount of protein is used for energy during endurance sports, certain researchers now believe that the RDA of 0,8 grams per kilogram body mass per day might be insufficient for those who are involved in endurance-type exercise. Some (but not all) studies also seem to indicate that exercise which needs a good deal of strength (such as weight-lifting) may increase protein requirements. At the same time, there is no evidence that excessive amounts of protein (such as the 2-2,5 grams per kilogram body mass, per day commonly consumed by power trainers) will have any added benefit.

Diet Start

How much protein does an athlete in fact require? While there are no definite recommendations, studies have suggested this may be between 1 and 1,5 grams per kilogram body mass per day or 12 to 15%of the total energy intake. But before you reach for that protein supplement, it must be emphasised that protein deficiencies among athletes are extremely rare. For example, a diet consisting of 14 300 kilojoules (3 400 calories), 14 % of which is derived from protein, provides about 119 grams of protein. An athlete who weighs 80 kg will therefore consume about 1,5-grams of protein per kilogram per day. This diet is thus quite capable of supplying the increased protein requirements of strenuous physical activity.


Vitamins play an important role in regulating and assisting the breaking down of macronutrients for energy production and muscular contraction, as well as the formation of red blood cells. All of these functions are essential in exercise performance. Two questions are usually asked when looking at the vitamin-exercise connection:

Vitamin requirements depend on the energy source of the working muscle. Exercise has been shown to increase the need for vitamin C and riboflavin (vitamin B2). However, it has also been proved that supplementation fails to increase the ability of athletes to train. Low thiamine (vitamin B1) intakes show no measurable effect on performance. Vitamin deficiencies in sportsmen and women are very uncommon and any increased demand for vitamins is usually met simply by the increased overall energy intake of the athlete. Studies of the effects of vitamin supplementation on performance have consistently found that there is no improvement in performance in athletes who have a balanced diet with an adequate vitamin intake. However, special care must be taken by those athletes who consume less than 5 000 kJ (1 200 cal) per day to ensure that their diets contain enough in the way of vitamins. This low energy intake is more common among female endurance athletes and ballet dancers.


Like vitamins, minerals play an essential role in various exercise- related functions. The most important macrominerals and trace elements in an athlete's diet are sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.

Sodium and potassium, which are usually referred to as 'electrolytes', play a major role in the amount of fluid in the body. Trivial amounts of both are lost in sweat, but even those athletes who sweat excessively rarely need to supplement their diets with either salt (sodium chloride) or potassium. The average diet contains 3 to 4 times more salt than necessary and simply by eating sufficient fresh fruit and vegetables, our potassium requirements are easily met. Magnesium deficiency is rare in athletes, partly due to the fact that it occurs in many foods and partly because sweat losses are very small. Magnesium does play an important role in the formation of glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate in muscles and the liver.

Iron plays a major role in relation to exercise. The lack of it is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and the most important in relation to runners, especially female runners. Energy intakes of less than 5 000 kJ (1 200 cal) are not enough to supply the amount of iron which a female sportswoman needs. Iron supplementation may then be necessary.


Water can also be referred to as a nutrient as it is so essential to life. One of its many functions in exercise is that of heat regulation. The amount of water needed during an exercise event depends mainly on the duration and intensity of the exercise and the body weight of the athlete. As a general guide, 500 ml per hour is thought to cover most athletes' requirements.

... andjoyohoxing