Most of us are familiar with the need for proper carbohydrate levels in our bodies. Carbohydrates come in two different types: starches and sugars. Sugars are known as simple carbohydrates, because your body can quickly digest them and they are usually found in foods such as cookies, soda, candy and other sugary foods. The other types of carbohydrates are known as complex carbohydrates, which are found in most starchy foods such as bread, rice, pasta and vegetables.
We need carbohydrates to give our bodies energy. Your body can break down the carbohydrates we consume into two different types of fuel. Glucose is the main fuel source that our body uses, which allows us to jump, run, think read, and more. Glycogen is glucose that is stored in our muscles, and whatever is not used is then stored as fat.
In terms of carbohydrates for sports nutrition or performance, we often turn to carbohydrate drinks. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes take a carbohydrate beverage anytime they are participating in an event that lasts longer than one hour. It is recommended that the maximum carbohydrate concentrate be between four percent and eight percent in this beverage. This percentage is recommended so that the body can turn these carbohydrates into the energy needed for immediate fuel. If you consume a carbohydrate beverage that has a percentage greater than eight percent, you actually decrease the rate at which it is converted into energy, which could result in slower performance.
Fruit juices, soft drinks and other drinks that have a high concentration of sugar are not recommended before or during sporting events, because their concentration of carbohydrates can be as high as 10 percent or greater. Studies also show that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Those beverages that contain glucose, sucrose and maltodextrin were found to be more effective in producing oxidation rates that were beneficial for energy production in athletic events that lasted for more than one hour. By consuming the proper amount of carbohydrates before a sporting event and supplementing with a carbohydrate drink, your body will have the sustained energy it needs to compete effectively.
When it comes hydration and sports performance there is probably nothing more important than being properly hydrated. Rather than focusing in on the energy side of the coin, it is important to remember that water is the most important liquid that you can put into your body. Water helps to regulate body temperature, it is responsible for transporting nutrients and oxygen to your cells, it helps to remove waste from your body and also serves as a cushion for your joints, organs and tissues. When your body becomes dehydrated you put an enormous strain on your heart because the amount of blood volume is decreased. This in turn leads to an increased body temperature which, if left unattended, can lead to heat stroke. In addition if you are dehydrated you are no longer thinking correctly and this can have an adverse effect on your performance.
Through the processes of sweating, urination and breathing every person can lose between eight to ten cups of water a day, and this is without doing any type of exercise. So it goes without saying that if you are exerting yourself by participating in some type of sports activity, especially if it is strenuous, it is essential that you replace these lost fluids in a timely manner. Keep in mind that you can also rehydrate your body by eating fresh fruits and vegetables - as many as five to seven servings a day. All fluids that are consumed account for your overall intake with the exception of alcohol. One way to gauge whether or not you need to replace fluid is by looking at the colour of your urine. If it is pale yellow in colour then you are hydrated, if it is rather dark, you may need to replenish with some fluids at this time. You cannot wait until you feel thirsty to drink water because this is not a good indication of whether you are dehydrated. By consuming a sports drink with the proper amount of electrolytes and carbohydrates, drinking 10 ounces of water before an event and six to eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during an event or training session, you can be sure that you are keeping yourself properly hydrated.
Many people do not know the effects of free radicals on human cellular system. Free radicals are produced in greater concentrations when we exercise and exert ourselves. They are byproducts of cellular activity within the body. We all have what is known as an antioxidant capacity, which serves to neutralise the free radicals that are floating around in our bodies. When we reach full capacity of our antioxidants to neutralize free radicals then we must supplement our bodies with additional antioxidants.
Antioxidants can be found in foods such as cranberries, chocolate, green tea, vitamins C, E and in many other natural herbs and enzymes. When we exert ourselves, we produce even more free radicals. When they do not get neutralised, there is an increase in the risk of diseases such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. The average person does not have to be too concerned about the effects of free radicals. Those who participate in intense sports, training, stress and competition may want to consider consuming some type of glyconutrient. These are essential to the sports nutrition of athletes in this category. They allow the body to fight off the free radicals that are produced as a result of this activity and allow for greater performance.
In terms of overall sports nutrition, carbohydrates, hydration and antioxidants can make the difference between a world-class performance or just average. When competing at the highest levels, it is important to make these a part of your diet if you want to achieve optimal performance.