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Advice On Sports Nutrition

Sports Nutrition Advice 

How much protein do I need for strength?
How much protein do I need for endurance?
Why do I need protein?
How many carbohydrates do I need in my diet?
What is ‘carb-loading’?
Do I need carbohydrates to increase muscle?
Are low carbohydrates diets good for fat loss?
Are there alternatives to low carbohydrate diets?
How many calories should I eat per day?
Can creatine monohydrate make me stronger?
How much creatine do I need to take?
What’s the best protein to take in the morning?
What’s the best protein to take at night?

 

How much protein do I need if I’m weight training?

A good question and one that’s still debated amongst the sports nutrition community to this day. Firstly looking specifically at strength, speed and power athletes the International Olympic Committee Consensus on Sports Nutrition that ‘strength or speed athletes require 1.7grams of protein per kg of bodyweight per day.’ To put this into an example for a 90kg sprinter this equates to 153 grams of protein per day (1.7grams x 90kg body weight = 153 grams of protein per day).

Another way of measuring this, and one that’s used by sports nutritionists, is to state ‘per day consume 1gram of protein per pound of body weight.’ So again using the example of the 90kg (198.4 pound) sprinter, this would equate to 198.4 grams per day (1 x 198.4 = 198.4 grams per day). Then it must be noted that many bodybuilding experts recommend as much as 3 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. So again that same 90kg sprinter, based on this recommendation, would be consuming 270 grams of protein per day (3x 90kg = 270 grams of protein per day).

 

How much protein do I need if I’m an endurance athlete?

Interestingly experts from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada found that endurance athletes require a greater (or equal) intake of protein than strength athletes. This is to ensure the athletes don’t over train and their bodies’ have enough protein to repair after extreme endurance training and events.

 

Why do I need protein?

The main role of protein within the body is to help build, maintain and repair body tissue. The reason it’s so important for people who train and athletes is because they require more protein to help them cope with the demands of training. Protein is also used to make hormones, cellular messengers, enzymes, immune-system components and nucleic acids and without enough of it in your diet your body wouldn’t be able to create the biochemical substances needed for simple things we perhaps take for granted like cardiovascular function, muscle contraction, growth, and healing. All in all it’s pretty important and that’s why you need it.

 

How many carbohydrates do I need in my diet?

Again this isn’t a simple answer and so let’s looks at the different schools of thought surrounding carbohydrates. Firstly for endurance athletes or anyone concerned with sports performance it’s important to understand that carbohydrates are our body’s primary fuel supply and so it’s important to get enough of them in your diet. This means low carbohydrate diets aren’t a good idea since this will detrimentally affect your performance. So athletes, generally speaking, need around 5-7g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight or 60 per cent of your daily calorie intake from carbohydrates. This will typically work out at around 1,500kcal from carbohydrate per day for most women and 1,800kcal for men.

 

What is ‘carb-loading’?

‘Carb-loading’ is a nutritional technique that requires an athlete to consume 8-10grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight, per day, for roughly 3 days before an event. This it to ensure their muscle glycogen levels are completely full and they therefore have enough muscular energy to complete the race.

 

Do I need carbohydrates when trying to increase muscle?

Carbohydrates are very important for those looking to increase muscle mass, this is because carbohydrates are needed both before a workout to ensure you’ve the energy to complete a strenuous weights routine and after a workout to replenish muscle glycogen, spike insulin levels and therefore kick-start the recovery process that will shuttle the protein and amino acids to the muscles as quickly as possible. Before a workout you can follow the same principles as the one explained above for sports performance but for post-workout it’s best to consume high glycaemic index, fast releasing carbohydrates since these are best for rapidly replenishing muscle glycogen and spiking insulin which ultimately kick-starts the entire recovery process.

 

Are low carbohydrates diets good for fat loss?

The principle and theory of low carbohydrate diets is sound, and will work, in that cutting carbohydrates out of your diet will in turn reduce the amount of insulin you release. This is then ideal for fat loss since the hormone insulin has been shown to increase lipogenisis (the storing of fat) and reduce lipolysis (the burning of fat) so having less of it in your body is ideal for losing weight. But the problem is that carbohydrates are our body’s and brain’s primary source of fuel and so if we cut them out completely for too long we become tired, lethargic, can’t train and our mood even becomes affected and we lose all motivation. Therefore it’s simply not sustainable and you can’t undergo a low carbohydrate diet for too long.

 

Are there alternatives to low carbohydrate diets?

Yes. The key is to find a balance and consume a moderate amount of carbohydrates. Also a good rule that many fat loss specialist recommend is to only have carbohydrates when you need them, for example when you wake up to start your day, before a workout to fuel your training and after training to replenish muscle glycogen and kick-start the recovery process. If you only consume a moderate amount of carbohydrates at these times your body will be able to absorb the carbohydrates effectively and therefore won’t release too much insulin which would result in fat storage. This is a much more sustainable and proven way to lose weight by manipulating your carbohydrate intake.

 

How many calories should I eat per day?

Again this will vary a lot depending on your age, height, weight, metabolic rate and how active you are during the day. But there is a way of estimating how many calories you need per day and that’s through something called the Harrison Benedict Formula. This is an equation that estimates how many calories you need per day based on certain factors. The first thing it does is calculates your metabolism, this is just how many calories you would burn per day just by staying alive and doing things like breathing or making sure your heart beats, but not doing any exercise at all.

For men this calculation is as follows:

• Metabolism (Men) = 66.5 + (13.75 x weight in kg) + (5.003 x height in cm) – (6.755 x age in years)

And for women it’s:

• Metabolism (Women) = 655.1 + (9.563 x weight in kg) + (1.850 x height in cm) – (4.676 x age in years)

Once you’ve found this number (the number of calories you burn per day just through your metabolism) next you have to multiply that number by the number below that correlates to how active you are, this will then give the number of calories you need per day:

• Not active (0 days a week exercise) = Daily calories needed = metabolism x 1.2

• Lightly active (1-2 days a week exercise) = Daily calories needed = metabolism x 1.375

• Moderately active (3-5 days a week exercise) = Daily calories needed = metabolism x 1.55

• Heavily active (6-7 days a week exercise) = Daily calories needed = metabolism x 1.725

• Very heavily active (exercising twice per day) Daily calories needed = metabolism x 1.9

Now once you have this number the next thing to do is to determine whether you want to bulk up, lose fat or stay the same weight. If you want to bulk up then it makes sense to add 500 calories to this number to create a ‘calorie surplus’. If you want to lose weight then deduct 500 calories from this number to create a ‘calorie deficit’. Then lastly to keep your weight the same simply consume this number of calories to achieve what is known as an ‘energy equilibrium’. Now it must be noted this is only an estimate and it will vary depending on your muscle mass, daily activity and other factors. However it is a good estimate and offers some form of guideline for you to follow.

 

How can creatine monohydrate make me stronger, quicker or bigger?

Creatine monohydrate can make you stronger, quicker and bigger by boosting the muscles production of a substance called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP.) Adenosine Triphosphate is basically our ‘muscular energy’ and it’s needed whenever we perform any fast, strong or powerful movement such as a sprint, squat or bench press. The thing is we only have enough Adenosine Triphosphate in our bodies to work at our maximum intensity for roughly 5 to 7 seconds, after this you’ll run out and either slow down during a sprint or fail on your 8th repetition when benching. This is why athletes supplement with creatine monohydrate since creatine increases Adenosine Triphosphate within the muscles and therefore increases the amount of time you are able to work at your maximum intensity for. This ultimately means you can perform that extra repetition in the gym or continue accelerating during a 100m sprint at the 70m mark instead of fading at the 60m mark.

 

How much creatine do I need to take?

Typically creatine supplementation involves a loading phase, 20g per day split between 4 servings, for 5-7 days, followed by a maintenance phase of 5g a day for the duration of a particular phase of training, 6 weeks for example. However more recently experts have suggested you don’t need to do a loading phase and can in fact starting using creatine with a set dose (roughly 5 grams) right from day 1. It’s important to know that there are studies to support both approaches so it’s recommended you find the right one for you.

Regardless of which dosage method you use, it was shown at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Queen's Medical Center in Nottingham that taking creatine with a high glycaemic index carbohydrate can increase creatine absorption and therefore the positive effect it can have on your training. It’s believed it does this because the high glycaemic index carbohydrate increases levels of the hormone insulin in the body which in turn helps to shuttle the creatine to the muscles far more effectively.

 

What’s the best protein to take in the morning?

When you wake up in the morning you’ve effectively been fasting for 7-10 hours since you’ve not been eating, what this means is your muscles are starved and are entering into a catabolic state. Therefore the best protein for first thing in the morning would be a quick absorbing protein such as Whey Protein 80 (concentrate) or Whey Protein 90 (isolate) since these are the best proteins to quickly reach the muscles, break the fast and therefore stop your body and muscles entering into a catabolic state.

 

What’s the best protein to take at night?

When you’re sleeping you’re effectively going to be fasting for 7-10 hours as well since you’re obviously not going to be eating. This potentially means that your muscles could enter a catabolic state and begin to breakdown, especially in the absence of protein and amino acids. That’s why it’s widely considered by experts that casein is the best form of protein before bed since it’s been shown to have a much slower absorption rate compared to other forms of protein which means it can ‘drip-feed’ amino acids and protein to your muscles right through the night.