Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Get Your Antioxidants

Many people know that antioxidants help prevent cell damage, but what impact does this have for an athlete? Since exercise increases oxygen consumption by 10-15 fold, it is hypothesized that exercise produces a constant oxidative stress on an athlete's muscles and cells. However current research suggests that individuals who engage in regular exercise combat this by developing more advanced antioxidant systems than their TV, couch junky counterparts. There is little information to date that shows antioxidants improve physical performance if we are already eating enough of them through our diet. New research is being conducted on how Vitamin E might reduce inflammation and muscle soreness during recovery from intense exercise, yet athletes are advised not to exceed the upper tolerable limit of 1000 mg for individuals >18 years of age due to increase risk of bleeding. Rich sources of vitamin E include: oils (wheat, sunflower, safflower, soybean and corn), almonds, peanut butter, peanuts, spinach, broccoli, kiwi and mango. Vitamin C research shows that physical performance is compromised when intake is borderline or inadequate. Athletes who participate in habitual, prolonged, strenuous exercise should consume 100-1000mg of Vitamin C daily. Rich sources of Vitamin C include: papaya, red pepper, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe, kiwi, broccoli, sweet and white potatoes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Iron, You Won't Endure Without It!

Exercise in the absence of oxygen is anaerobic. Exercise in the absence of adequate iron intake is just plain foolishness. However iron poor blood is the most prevalent deficiency found in athletes, especially women and endurance runners. Iron is a must have for hemoglobin and myoglobin, the two proteins responsible for carrying oxygen throughout our circulatory system. Without it, muscles do not function correctly and their capacity for work is poor. In other words endurance is caput! Signs of iron deficiency include: feeling tired and weak, decreased attention at work and school, difficulty maintaining body temperature (chills) and increased susceptibility to infection. If your exercise performance has declined, ask your physician to test your serum ferritin and hemoglobin levels at your next physical. I've counseled many student athletes who have returned from their first year at college with anemia. Dorm foods are notoriously low in iron and are further compromised by poor eating habits. Iron rich foods include fortified whole grain breads and cereals, lean red meats and poultry, dark green vegetables (think Popeye and spinach), beans, nuts and legumes. Vitamin C helps iron get absorbed so have a side of orange juice with your cereal in the morning. For more on iron go to:

B Vitamins, Very Energizing

Many of you may be familiar with the link between B vitamins and energy because of their renewed rise in status due to designer waters and energy drinks. While I'm not an advocate of either of these beverages there is a connection. Thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine (B6), and biotin are involved in the creation of energy during exercise. Folate and B12 are needed to build red blood cells, make protein and repair tissue. Severe deficiency of B12 and folate may result in anemia causing poor endurance and easily fatigued muscles. The research to date has been limited but does indicate that exercise may increase your needs for these vitamins by as much as twice the recommended amount. However, B vitamins should be plentiful in your athletic carbohydrate rich diet that includes breads, whole grains and cereals, green leafy vegetables, fortified orange juice and red meat. There's no need to reach for the drinks with hyped up names. Sorry Red Bull, Monster and Vitaminwater, no plugs for you!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Calcium and Vitamin D

Bone density is maximized by age 30. Building strong, healthy bones is of primary importance in children and young adults, and maintaining those stores is important throughout adulthood. Athletes often meet key characteristics for keeping bones strong which include regular weight bearing activities, not smoking and the use of alcohol in moderation. However, 55% of males and 78% of females > age 20 do not consume enough calcium. Even if they do consume calcium rich foods, many Michigan athletes train indoors 2/3rds of the year limiting their sun exposure which in addition to dairy is a good source of Vitamin D, a requirement for calcium absorption. Calcium rich sources include: low fat milk, yogurt and ice cream, calcium fortified orange juice (good source of Vitamin C & Potassium), salmon (omega 6) soybeans and baked beans (iron and fiber). Vitamin D rich sources beyond dairy include: salmon, mackerel, tuna, shrimp and some margarines. Inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D increases your risk for low bone-mineral density and stress fractures which will take you off the running circuit for the season. To determine your specific calcium and vitamin D requirements and learn more about these nutrients visit:

If you take a multivitamin don’t assume your calcium and Vitamin D needs are covered. Iron interferes with calcium absorption; so many brands don’t include it. The above sites discuss dosage, timing and selection tips in addition to current research.