Essential nutritional supplements
All athletes subject their bodies to great physical demands that require adequate nutrition. But in the case of trail running, especially over long distances, these demands can be much greater. In order to assimilate and tolerate the high training loads, it is essential that we cover our macro and micronutrient requirements through essential nutritional supplements. And if for an ordinary person it is difficult to cover all the nutritional needs through food, for an athlete it is much more difficult. And for an ultra distance runner it can be quite an odyssey.
The ideal will always be to get as many nutrients as possible from what we eat, but this is not always possible. The nutritionist and expert in sports nutrition Anna Grifols, shares with us the best nutritional supplements that we can consume to give our body all the nutrients it needs to recover daily and be in the best conditions to compete and perform day by day.
The importance of Creatine
It is the most studied sports supplement and with more scientific evidence along with caffeine. It not only has benefits in sports performance, but also at the level of protection against neurodegenerative diseases. In long-term sports “we are interested in using it to promote glucose uptake by our muscles and our liver, that is, to make better use of the carbohydrates we consume,” explains Anna.
Don’t forget Antioxidants
When we do sports, our body’s oxygen demands increase, and as a result free radicals appear, i.e. we oxidize. As a consequence, our body activates a series of responses that compensate for this oxidation. This process is natural, and is one of those responsible for adapting to exercise and improving our performance. But when this oxidation is too great, we may need external aids, says the nutritionist. And she recommends that athletes with low food tolerance after the race or long training, use vitamin supplements. The main dietary antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E.
Glutamine, a must
Glutamine is an amino acid and is directly related to the processes of muscle repair and protein synthesis. It also plays an important role in immune function. All these tasks are essential after a long or very hard race. Although glutamine is present in red meat and fish, legumes, dairy products and some vegetables, the amount we get from food is not always sufficient. That is why it is recommended to use it as a supplement either in isolate or in reinforced protein shakes.
Carbohydrates in our diet
For Grifols, carbohydrates are our greatest ally while running. “We are not always going to be able to consume them in the form of solid, natural foods while running. There are many ways to ingest them, but it is best to play it safe, and use one that we are used to.”
The ideal formula would be a combination of glucose in one of its many forms (maltodextrin, dextrin, free glucose), and to a lesser extent, fructose. This is important since our intestine becomes saturated faster with fructose and can cause discomfort and digestive problems.
The nutritionist recommends, in addition to the use of isotonic drinks, to consume gels and bars “since they are highly concentrated and, therefore, with the same volume they provide us with more carbohydrates than an isotonic drink”. And he emphasizes that we should not forget all natural foods such as dates, dried plums, quince, bananas, among others, which can help cover the carbohydrate requirements per hour.
Remember that in an ultra distance race the ideal is to reach 90 to 120 grams of CHO per hour. But it is something that must be trained so that our gastric system is able to tolerate these loads. And as a starter, aiming for 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour is a good nutritional strategy goal.
Salts to replenish what has been lost
Their main function is to replenish the electrolytes we lose through sweat, and to help absorb water. Increased hydration will also improve carbohydrate absorption. The dosage should be regulated according to temperature, humidity, time of day, and the athlete. Anna says that a good indicator to know if we are overdoing it with salts is to observe if our fingers are swollen. If so, we should space out the intakes, although in summer we should probably introduce them twice an hour.
Caffeine as one of the indispensable nutritional supplements
It is a supplement with ergogenic effect, that is to say, it increases physical performance, delays fatigue and mitigates pain. It is important to consider that once the first dose is taken, it is necessary to continue taking it until the end of the exercise to avoid unwanted “lows”. For this reason, Grifols says that it is ideal to consume it when you begin to feel fatigue.
The time it takes for caffeine to take effect depends on how it is ingested and whether it is taken together with other foods. In liquid form (coffee, tea, energy drinks…), it reaches its maximum effect approximately half an hour later. If it is taken in tablet form, or in capsules, it will reach its maximum effect after one hour. The fastest form of absorption is in the form of chewing gum, a new format that is beginning to be marketed.
Protein for muscles
The daily requirement of a healthy adult is about 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. In an athlete this can increase to 2 to 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram. If you cannot reach these figures, you can resort to protein shakes or protein bars. There are many options: vegetable, whey, meat, egg, etc. It is essential to cover the daily quota to protect our muscles and recover properly.
Nitrates for our blood
Nitrates are chemical compounds found naturally in foods such as beets, spinach, celery. Lately they are gaining popularity in sports nutrition, and despite not yet having much history, they are a promising supplement that does not cost anything to introduce.
Their effects are due to the fact that they increase the blood flow to our muscles, and improve the absorption of oxygen by the muscle cells. They can be taken by adding them to a shake in powder form or with any of the foods that contain them.
If you want to perform better and give your body the tools to recover well, you should not neglect nutrition. Along with training and rest, nutrition is one of the pillars of good sports health. And to make sure you cover all the requirements, remember that you can resort to nutritional supplements. Ideally, you should always consult a professional in the area to evaluate which are the most appropriate for you and in what doses.