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There is no doubt that nutrition and exercise performance go hand in hand. And in the information age, there’s a lot of confusion regarding nutritional guidelines for athletes. The amount of nutrients needed is usually based on the recommendation for the general population that may not be appropriate for the athletic population. Sufficient amounts of energy, carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are essential to the optimal performance and condition top athletes desire.

Additionally, false advertisements and health claims are everywhere. Massive bombardment of ads and information about nutrition flood the media. Are carbohydrates evil? Do we have to take supplementation for every nutrient out on the market? Does more protein intake mean greater muscle mass? Also, there are too many web-sites telling us what to eat. Are they relevant? This handbook will hopefully lead top athletes in the right direction with up-to-date nutrition recommendation based on science and research.

New and emerging science has been consistently investigating the “right” amount of nutrients for high performance training and other competitive demands. There are three main energy sources in our diet: Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat.

Why do we care about nutrition so much?

  • Obtain maximum gains from training
  • Enhance recovery for optimal conditioning
  • Maintenance and reaching weight goals
  • Less accidents and illness
  • Consistent achievement of goals
  • Maximal Performance


Carbohydrates are the predominant and most efficient fuel source for training and performance. The muscle and the liver are the main places to store dietary carbohydrate in the form of glycogen. When the stored glycogen is depleted, exhaustion and weakness may be established. Carbohydrate supplements during exercise may contribute to prolonged exercise performance. Supplying the carbohydrates immediate after the exercise is to make sure there are enough carbohydrate sources in the body for recovering. Thus, it is recommended to take carbohydrate and protein together for the optimal recovery after exercise. During the day, it is important to replenish muscle glycogen stores that are depleted throughout the day to condition your body for the next day’s trainings or competitions.

The recommended amount and timing of carbohydrate intake:

Activity Type Amt of Carbohydrate
Immediate recovery after exercise (0-4 hrs) 1g/kg BM/hr in intervals
Daily Recovery from moderate duration/ low intensity 5-7 g/kg BM/day
Daily recovery from Moderate-heavy endurance exercise 7-12 g/kg BM/day
Daily recovery from extreme exercise program (>4-6 hr/day) >10-12 g/kg BM/day

Modified from IOC practical nutrition guideline

It is also recommended to take nutrient-rich carbohydrate source (ex. fruits and vegetable, Brown rice and other whole grains, 100% whole wheat bread) than low-nutrient containing foods (ex. White rice and bread, sports drinks and soft drinks, jam, honey, sugar).


Some athletes, especially those who compete intensely for more than 90 minutes, load up their muscle glycogen stores to maximum levels before competitions. This is achieved by eating large amounts (8-10g/ kg) of carbohydrates 2 to 3 days prior to competitions. Not enough scientific evidence supports the efficacy of such method, however. New and emerging research supports ample carbohydrate (as outlined above) and adequate calories (eating for energy balance) as the proper way to maximize glycogen stores for an event.

The Basics “All Carbohydrates are Sugars”

Carbohydrates provide fuel to our working muscles, brain, and organs. Carbohydrates are not “essential” to life, however we function a lot better when we do have them in our diet. People usually classify carbohydrates into “simple sugars” or “complex carbohydrates.”  However these are not the way athletes should view their carbohydrate sources. A much better way is to ask the question: “What am I getting for this carbohydrate source.”

What We Want In a Carbohydrate Source

  • High Fiber – aids in weight loss, lowers cholesterol, keeps us “regular,” and high intakes (25 grams/day women 38 grams/day men) is associated with increased overall cardiovascular health and a much lower risk of chronic disease. This means every meal should have 6-8 grams of fiber.
  • High in Micronutrients – Vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are found in abundance in fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as unprocessed whole grains such as steal cut oatmeal and brown rice. Many of these micronutrients are essential to life such as Vitamin C, while others such as the polyphenols in olives are associated with increased heart health.
  • Straight from the ground to your plate – The closer you choose your carbohydrates to the way they looked growing on the farm the better off you will be. This way the food naturally has all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, essential fats, and all the other great stuff scientists have not yet discovered in them.

When we view our carbohydrate sources in this way it becomes apparent that vegetables and fruits, along with unprocessed grain products such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, bread with at least 4 grams of fiber per slice are our best choices. It also becomes apparent that fruit and vegetable juices are an inferior source of nutrients since we lose the fiber content.

Vegetables are extremely important and should be the staple of at least one meal per day preferably two meals in a day. Dark colored vegetables (carrots, spinach, bell pepper, broccoli, pumpkin, tomato etc.) are filled with vitamins, minerals, fibers, antioxidants, etc.

How to achieve your required vegetable intake

• Always have a large Tupperware container of mixed chopped vegetables in the fridge along with a pre-washed bag of spinach or spring greens

• If eating in a restaurant always order a salad

• If you don’t have time for salad then snack on carrots, celery, or green beans

How to choose bread

  • All bread must have at least 3-4 grams of fiber per slice
  • All bread must have “whole grain” on the label
  • Avoid all labels with “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients
  • My favorite is Ezekiel 4:9 bread

The “Other Stuff”

There are many other sources of carbohydrates that people do not utilize very often. Here is a list, if you would like a recipe just ask!

Take 45 min to Cook Take 30 min to Cook Less than 30 min to Cook
Brown Rice Quinoa Sweet Potato
Corn Lentils Couscous
Beans Peas Soy Pasta