Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Athletes and Alcohol - A Bad Mix

Athletes train hard and compete in order to achieve their dreams. These dreams may be impossible to achieve if athletes choose to drink alcohol. Consuming alcoholic beverages, even days before or after an important practice or competition, can erase the beneficial effects of training and ruin their chances of achieving optimum performance.

Alcohol use is of particular concern with collegiate athletes. Shockingly, a national study of college student drinking found that student-athletes have significantly higher rates of heavy drinking than non-athletes.  "Heavy drinking" is defined as 5 or more drinks consecutively for men, 4 or more for women.

In addition to the health and safety concerns of excessive alcohol consumption,
here are the Top 10 reasons why athletes should avoid alcohol consumption:

  1. Drinking alcohol after a training session or practice can negate the benefits of your hard work, because it can decrease muscle protein synthesis, impairing muscle growth and canceling out the gains from your workout.
  2. Alcohol causes dehydration, many hours to days after its use. Dehydration leads to headaches, fatigue, impaired balance, and a host of other problems that significantly impair performance and recovery.
  3. Alcohol use can inhibit the secretion of Human Growth Hormone, a hormone naturally produced in our body which is important in muscle growth and recovery.
  4. Alcohol is a toxin, and it can disrupt normal cell function and impair the ability of muscles cells to produce ATP, the main energy molecule in our cells. This can deplete your energy significantly, resulting in loss of endurance.
  5. Alcohol is high in calories, low in nutrients, and the body treats it like fat. This can lead to unwanted weight gain in the form of fat storage, which can hamper athletic performance.
  6. Alcohol consumption may inhibit the absorption of some important vitamins and minerals like thiamin, zinc, folic acid, and Vitamin B12. These nutrients are extremely important for energy metabolism and new cell growth, such as muscle cells and red blood cells.  
  7. Alcohol use affects and disrupts your sleep-cycle, reducing your ability to learn and retain new information, such as learning new plays, studying films, and applying strategy during games. 
  8. Alcohol consumption provides only "empty calories" and may displace valuable nutrient-dense beverages important to athletes, such as milk or 100% fruit juices.
  9. Heavy drinking can negatively affect brain and body activities for up to 3 full days.
  10. Two consecutive nights of heavy drinking can negatively impact an athlete's body and brain for up to 5 days!!!
Is a night of drinking worth all of these negative effects on your sports performance?
For the serious athlete in training, with serious goals, a resounding "NO" should be the answer.  Enjoy the party and time with your friends, but volunteer to be the designated driver instead.  

Fuel wisely to reach your dreams. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Healthy Half-time Fuel for the Performance Athlete

Do you compete in a high-intensity, endurance sport with minimal breaks during games? 

Do you find yourself without any opportunities to hydrate or fuel during competition? 

Do you have a hard time eating a pregame meal because of a nervous stomach or "butterflies"? 

Competing at a high-intensity for long periods of time without a break can leave you dehydrated and fatigued from low energy, especially if you do not hydrate and fuel properly before competition.

Consider this:
Three main causes of exercise fatigue and impaired sports performance are:
  1. dehydration
  2. reduced energy stores in muscles ("glycogen")
  3. low blood sugar levels
For some sports (like soccer), the only opportunity for a break is half-time.

Rehydrating and refueling during competition (at half-time) can help keep sports performance at optimal levels and help get you through the second half of the game, especially those crucial final minutes when physical and mental fatigue can really take a toll. This is even more important if you consider those unexpected overtime periods that sometimes occur.

Halftime is a great opportunity to refuel and rehydrate. Fluids provide the much needed hydration for your body to cool itself and maintain its optimal temperature. Carbohydrate foods provide the much needed glucose (sugar) your brain and muscles use during competition.

Here are some half-time snack suggestions that provide your body with the much needed fluids and fuel (glucose) to stay strong, delay fatigue, and keep your performance high. These foods are high in water content, high in carbohydrates, and low in fat so they digest quickly.
  • Sports Drinks (Gatorade) or Water
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Cut-up melon
  • Sliced oranges
  • Apple wedges
Remember one of the most important rules of sports nutrition:
Never try anything new for the first time on GAME DAY!!!  
Try different carbohydrate foods during practice first to see if they settle well in your stomach.
Everyone is different. What works for a teammate, may not work for you.

Fuel Excellence!