Sports nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald shares his Top Sports Nutrition Myths with Tina Vindum, on the Outdoor Fitness podcast. CLICK HERE to listen to the interview.
Myth #1 – Athletes should avoid high-glycemic carbohydrates
Most athletes are familiar with the concept of the glycemic index, which classifies various food types according to how quickly the body absorbs their carbohydrate content. We have been taught that low GI carbohydrates are “good” because they are absorbed slowly, giving the body a steady supply of energy, and that high GI carbohydrates are “bad” because they result in a “spike” in blood sugar and energy followed by a blood sugar “crash” and low energy.
For athletes, however, it’s not that simple. High GI carbohydrates are actually preferable for athletes before, during, and immediately after exercise. During exercise, the muscles burn carbohydrate faster than the body can possibly absorb carbohydrates consumed in food. Consuming carbs immediately before and during prolonged exercise has been shown to enhance performance by providing an extra fuel source to the muscles. But this benefit can only be realized if those carbs are absorbed quickly. They don’t do the muscles any good if they’re just sitting around in the stomach being processed. This is why sports drinks and energy gels contain sugars such as dextrose that are rapidly absorbed.
High GI carbs are also beneficial in the first hour after exercise, because they result in faster replenishment of the muscles’ depleted carbohydrate fuel stores. What’s more, when high GI carbs are consumed along with protein after exercise, the muscles are able to repair and rebuild faster.
Myth #2 – Athletes need supplements to achieve maximum performance
Heavy marketing by the sports nutrition industry has convinced many athletes that they cannot achieve their full athletic potential without using nutritional supplements. For example, research has shown that consuming protein and amino acid supplements after exercise enhances the muscle recovery and muscle-building effects of exercise. However, skim milk has been shown to provide the same benefits, at a fraction of the cost.
Myth #3 – Only strength athletes need to worry about eating enough protein
The reality is endurance athletes require almost as much protein per pound of body weight, as football players, bodybuilders, and others who are concerned with maximizing the size and strength of their muscles.
A recent study found that runners need to consume at least 0.55 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily to maintain muscle mass. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should try to consume at least 82 grams of protein each day.
Myth #4 – Dehydration must be avoided at all costs during exercise
It is true that dehydration can have a negative impact on performance. However, the link between dehydration and heat illness has also been exaggerated. For the sake of both your health and your performance, drink fluid according to your thirst during exercise.
Myth #5 – There’s only one “right way” to fuel the body for maximum performance
The Problem: The same foods may have very different effects in different bodies. One helpful way to connect nutritional cause and effect in your body is to keep a food journal. Record everything you eat throughout the day and also note how you feel and function after each meal.