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
testsor 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
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
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
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 hourmore
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
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
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.
PDR Family Guide to Nutrition and Health