Diet Fitness – Information and Advice
Foods to Improve Nutrition and Fitness
Diet foods which (supposedly) aid fitness and help boost fat loss are everywhere. There are hundreds of so-called “fitness foods”,”fitness drinks”, “sports nutrition foods” and “sports drinks” along with any number of natural sports supplements and other functional diet foods to help us boost our body fitness, manage our fat/muscle ratio and perhaps control our weight. In fact, almost any substance we eat in order to improve our level of nutrition is called a dietary supplement or “fitness food.”
The Diet-Fitness Claim
Manufacturers of these diet-fitness products and other functional foods typically imply that once we achieve optimal nutrition by ingesting suitably large quantities of these diet-fitness products, we will (supposedly) perform better, have limitless energy and strength, be able to burn fat and calories more rapidly, and have a body that looks and acts young well into old age.
You must decide whether this is just hype to sell more diet-fitness products, or whether (and/or which of) these fitness and sports supplements are genuinely helpful.
Diet-Fitness At a Price
For many people, certain dietary supplements, including vitamins and minerals, may have a place in a healthy diet plan. Products such as nutritionally complete formula meals are very valuable for the ill or the elderly, and for people otherwise unable to consume enough nutrients to meet daily needs. But many of these diet-fitness products are typically unnecessary and few are cheap.
Fitness and Weight Control Benefits of Healthy Diet and Exercise
To put it another way, given calorie limitation, a well-balanced diet, and a daily 30 minute workout, almost anyone can lose body fat, increase muscle mass, and enjoy the energizing benefits that come with regular exercise without the need for any of these diet-fitness foods or supplements.
Guide to Buying Dietary Supplements or Foods to Increase Fitness
- Does the fitness food product promise miraculous, fast, or dramatic diet/fitness results?
- Are the product’s fitness claims substantiated by reputable experts?
- Are the fitness claims based on scientific tests—or merely on user-testimonials?
- Is the fitness food product manufacturer well-established in the industry?
“Miraculous” Fitness or Sports Foods Don’t Deliver
Be wary of any fitness food or dietary supplement that makes miraculous claims. If a claim sounds unbelievable, it almost certainly is. Pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers spend billions of dollars each year seeking solutions to obesity and cures for life-threatening diseases. When a discovery occurs, it makes headlines.
Which Food Substances or Diet Supplements Help Fitness?
Vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene may limit or repair the stress that can cause muscle damage during exercise. Health studies have yet to prove that antioxidant supplements can improve athletic performance, but some experts consider that these supplements can guard against damage during training and competition. For example, for most women a bone-strengthening calcium supplement may be advisable.
This is rich in many essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, but studies have been unable to establish a clear link between this diet food supplement and fitness performance. Bee pollen can cause life-threatening allergic reactions in some people.
Studies have shown that caffeine may improve endurance and possibly even strength. Also, caffeine may increase the muscles’ fuel-burning abilities, and extend the amount of stored sugar available for energy use. Runners and cyclists have reported being able to run/cycle greater-than-normal-distance after a couple of cups of coffee. But caffeine can also speed muscle contraction, which can lead to cramps. It may also increase heart rate and cause palpitations in susceptible individuals. It also heightens the risk of heat stroke.
There is still much controversy about this vitamin-like amino acid. Although carnitine helps the metabolism of fat, experts are divided as to whether it can also improve athletic performance and stamina. For example, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that there are “insufficient research data” available for using carnitine as a performance enhancer. And several years ago the French government took action against the makers of dozens of dietary supplements containing carnitine after a commission concluded that it neither enhanced athletic performance, nor was effective in assisting weight loss. Incidentally, carnitine deficiency is easily remedied by eating beef steak and ground beef, bacon, cooked fish, chicken breast, whole milk, cheese, and whole wheat. Vegetarians can combine rice, corn, or wheat with beans, to make certain they get an adequate supply.
Choline is readily made in the body. There is no scientific evidence to indicate that choline can help counter the aging process or that it has any other special fitness benefit. However, studies are being conducted to determine whether it is effective in treating certain brain disorders.
This mineral has gained recent popularity for its abilities to improve glucose (blood sugar) tolerance and reduce blood serum cholesterol levels. According to the Medical Tribune, a few studies have suggested that supplementing the diet with this mineral may help reduce body fat without cutting caloric intake. But as yet there is no clear evidence that chromium picolinate is a great boost for diet fitness.
Coenzyme Q10 plays an essential role in heart functioning and metabolism. It has been administered to cardiac patients to increase the amount of oxygen the body can use and to improve their exercise performance. However, both the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and the International Journal of Sports Nutrition warn that research does not support the value of coenzyme Q10, either alone or as part of a commercial supplement, for boosting athletic performance.
Ephedrine, Ephedra, Ma Huang, Epitonin
Products containing ephedrine alkaloids (ephedra, ma huang, or epitonin) are best avoided. Sold as energy boosters and weight loss supplements, these products can interact dangerously with a variety of prescription drugs and, in large enough doses, can cause fatalities. The FDA has warned that taking these products can be a dangerous health risk possibly leading to heart attack, stroke, or seizure.
Because this diet substance is found in very old trees, some people have speculated that ginkgo biloba may be useful in treating a variety of disorders. While it is possible that ginkgo biloba may be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease, there is no proof that it boosts energy or fitness.
There is much speculation surrounding ginseng, but very little in the way of hard scientific data to prove its health or dietary fitness benefits. On the contrary, it may cause harmful side effects, such as high blood pressure. Furthermore, one study that analyzed 54 ginseng products found a quarter of them to be completely ginseng-free!
This trendy diet substance is cropping up in many supplements marketed as anti-inflammatory agents that promise to reduce muscle discomfort. But as yet no clinical tests confirm this fitness benefit.
This substance is an algae that forms on the surface of ponds and lakes. Spirulina is promoted as an energy and immunity booster that cleanses and detoxifies the body. It’s nutritional food value is similar to that of the soybean, except spirulina costs about a hundred times more! The typical recommended dosage contains little protein and fewer vitamins and minerals than are found in broccoli, while some diet-fitness products sold as spirulina contain none of the substance at all.
Although Russian animal studies indicate that vitamin B15 may enhance metabolism, at least four major American studies discovered no connection between its use and an increase in fitness. Indeed, this product is so suspect that the Food and Drug Administration forbids its sale.
Carbohydrates – Nature’s Healthy Diet-Fitness Foods
Diet foods rich in complex carbohydrates are a great source of energy and fitness benefits. They typically contain a range of other essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. In addition, they are often excellent sources of dietary fiber, and are often low in fat. By contrast, sugary (refined) carbs can cause fatigue.
For example, foods such as starchy vegetables, pasta, whole-grain bread and cereals, barley, and rice provide plenty of long-lasting energy and offer lots of valuable nutritional benefits, while excess calories from sugary treats, which quickly shoot up your blood sugar level, can leave you feeling listless later on.
The Top Carbs to Boost Energy and Fitness
Complex carbohydrates are excellent energy boosters. Grain products and fruits are your best sources; and many offer a host of extra benefits. For example:
This highly nutritious grain is high in calcium. Like brown rice, whole wheat, buckwheat, and barley, it is a rich source of fiber and trace minerals.
Bananas, Cantaloupes, Oranges
These fruits are full of vitamins, fiber, and carbohydrates, and a single banana contains as much as 25 percent of a day’s supply of potassium, a mineral needed for healthy blood pressure.
Easily the richest natural source of beta-carotene, carrots are high in fiber and minerals. Enjoy carrots frequently in all forms: cooked, raw, and as juice.
High Vitamin C Fruits
A single serving of citrus fruit offers almost a day’s supply of vitamin C; and so do kiwis, pineapples, persimmons, and honeydew melons. In addition, many of these are rich in potassium and other valuable nutrients.
All beans are high in iron and other minerals, high in fiber, and can be good sources of protein when combined with other vegetable proteins, such as rice.
A good source of vitamin C, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, iron, and fiber, and low in calories. Eat them plain or with reduced-fat dressing.
When’s the Best Time to Eat for Optimum Fitness and Energy?
University of Texas studies suggest that your body uses carbohydrates most effectively within 2 hours after a workout. Researchers advise that a good way to fight fatigue and feed muscles is to eat a protein and carbohydrate meal shortly after exercising. Doing so, he says, will maximize absorption of essential nutrients.
Water, Diet and Fitness
Whether or not you are athletic, drink plenty of water. Start your morning with eight to 16 ounces, and take time for water breaks throughout the day, especially when exercising. Try to drink at least a half cup (four ounces) of water each hour—more if the air is dry or if it is hot. Don’t forget that caffeinated and alcoholic beverages are diuretics (encourage urination and thus fluid loss); so drink a glass of water along with your coffee, tea, or wine.
How Necessary Are Sports Drinks?
When do you need more than water to replenish the body’s fluid losses? Unless you’re a committed athlete dedicated to performance, the answer is rarely.
If you work out vigorously for over an hour, or at a moderate pace for over two hours, then it’s time to add energy (carbohydrates) to your drink. Otherwise, you are likely to suffer from fatigue or loss of endurance.
Diluting fruit juices half and half with water will give you a refreshing drink that serves up about the same amount of carbohydrates as most sports drinks – about 6 to 8 percent by weight. Drinking higher-carb fluids – whether juice or sports drinks – will slow absorption and may cause cramping.
Do Sports Drinks With Electrolytes Improve Fitness?
What many sports drinks provide that most diluted juices do not is a variety of electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Do you need them?
Electrolytes may improve a beverage’s taste and lead to increased fluid consumption. Also, adding electrolytes to a beverage may improve water and glucose absorption. Some studies have shown that beverages with glucose and electrolytes are more efficient for maintaining your body’s fluid balance. But electrolytes are certainly not essential.
Sports Drinks – Bottom Line for Fitness
If you work out vigorously for less than 60 minutes, or not so hard for less than two hours, water is fine. If you’re a more dedicated athlete, a more serious sports drink may be a better diet-fitness choice.