Importance of sports nutrition & supplements

Nutrition is important for athletes because it provides a source of energy required to perform the activity.  When a person eats food, it impacts his/her strength, training, performance and recovery.  Not only is the type of food is important for sports nutrition but the timings of the meals, also have a great impact on the performance levels and the body’s ability to recover after exercising.  Nutrition and hydration are both key for performance. They are what fuels the body to move.
Sports nutrition means nutritional strategies that are specifically put in place to aid the performance of an athlete. This can help the athlete prepare and recover from both training and competition. The goal of sports nutrition is to supply the right food type, energy, nutrients and fluid so that the athlete can optimize their performance. 
Meals eaten before and after exercise are the most important in sports nutrition but a person really has to be careful with everything that is put into the body. As a thumb-rule, athletes should eat about two hours before exercising.  This meal should be high in carbohydrates, low in fat and low to moderate in protein. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy that power the exercise regime and protein is required to aid muscle growth and repair. After exercising it is important to replace the carbohydrates which have been used with fast acting carbohydrates and to ensure proper muscle recovery by including fast acting protein in the post training drink and followed up by complex carbohydrate and protein meals periodically.
The proportions of protein and carbohydrates required will vary depending on both the intensity and type of sport so to get the individual balance right, a qualified dietitian/sports nutritionist should be consulted for professional help with sports nutrition.

Role of Dietary & Sports Supplements
In Sports, nutritional supplements products are primarily formulated and aimed to boost the nutritional intake of athletes vis-à-vis their muscle mass that ultimately reflects in their performance.    Each of the macronutrients needed in relatively large amounts has unique properties that affect health, but all of them are sources of energy.  Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals are important for several essential functions in the body and have to be consumed along with food, as the body cannot produce it.  A large number of supplements contain banned substances and consumption of same leads to Doping.  A qualified sports nutritionist plays a significant role to create awareness and counseling among the athletes with respect to safe consumption of dietary and nutritional supplements and medication.
Supplements are considered as an addition to an already healthy diet. Active adults or athletes may include supplements to help meet their nutritional needs, improve nutrient deficiencies, enhance athletic performance or achieve personal fitness goals. But without a well-designed nutrition plan in place, supplementation is said to be rarely effective.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends evaluating the validity and scientific merit behind supplement claims for enhanced athletic performance. The following questions are suggested:   

  • Does the supplement claim make sense? 
  •  Is there scientific evidence available?
  •  Is the supplement legal or safe?

Reliable online references like the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition or the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed will help discern if a supplement is based on sound scientific evidence or not.  If working with a sports dietitian or specialist, they can be a valuable resource in supplement research interpretation. The information gathered will enable to make the best decision about taking sports supplements for health and athletic goals.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has provided a classification for supplements based on clinical research:

  1. Apparently effective: The majority of supplement research studies show safe and effective.
  2. Possibly effective: Initial supplement findings are good, but more research is required to examine the effects on training and athletic performance. 
  3. Too early to tell: Supplement theory makes sense but lacks sufficient research to support using it.
  4. Apparently ineffective: Supplements lack sound scientific evidence and/or research has shown the supplement to be clearly ineffective and/or unsafe. 

Dietary supplements can play an important role in an athletic diet. However, they should be viewed as supplements to the diet, not replacements for a good diet. While there are very few supplements backed by scientific evidence to enhance athletic performance, there are some shown to be helpful for exercise and recovery. Whether you’re an active adult, athlete working alone, or have hired a sports nutrition specialist, it’s important to stay current on supplement research.

Supplement Value of Vitamins and Exercise Performance
Vitamins are organic compounds essential to regulating metabolic processes, energy production, neurological functioning, and protection of our cells. Dietary analysis on active adults or athletes has reported vitamin deficiencies.Although research shows a possible benefit of taking vitamins for general health, there has been minimal to no ergogenic benefits reported.  
The following common nutritional supplements have been researched and classified as either: apparently effective, possibly effective, too early to tell, or apparently ineffective:

Apparently Effective and Generally Safe

Muscle Building Supplements
– Weight gain powders
– Creatine
– Protein
– Essential amino acids (EAA)
Weight Loss Supplements
– Low-calorie foods, meal replacement powders (MRPs), ready-to-drink shakes (RTDs)
– Ephedra, caffeine, and salicin containing thermogenic supplements taken in recommended doses for appropriate populations (ephedra is banned by the FDA)
Performance-Enhancing Supplements
– Water and sports drinks
– Carbohydrates
– Creatine
– Sodium phosphate
– Sodium bicarbonate
– Caffeine
– B-alanine

Possibly Effective, But More Research Required
– Muscle Building Supplements
– HMB in untrained individuals, start-up training programs
– BCAA (branched-chain amino acids)
– Weight Loss Supplements
– High-fiber diets
– Calcium
– Green tea extract
– Conjugated linoleic acids (CLA)
– Performance-Enhancing Supplements
– Post-exercise carbohydrate and protein
– Essential amino acids (EAA)
– Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA)
– Glycerol

Too Early to Tell, and Lacks Sufficient Research
–  Muscle Building Supplements
–  α-Ketoglutarate
–  α-Ketoisocaproate
–  Ecdysterone
–  Growth hormone-releasing peptides and secretagogues
–  Ornithine α-Ketoglutarate
–  Zinc/magnesium aspartate
–  Weight Loss Supplements
–  Gymnema Sylvestre, chitosan
–  Phosphatidyl Choline
–  Betaine
–  Coleus forskolin
–  Psychotropic Nutrients/Herbs
–  Performance-Enhancing Supplements
–  Medium-chain triglycerides

Apparently Not Effective and/or Unsafe
– Muscle Building Supplements
– Glutamine
– Smilax
– Isoflavones
– Sulfo-polysaccharides (myostatin inhibitors)
– Boron
– Chromium
– Conjugated linoleic acids
– Gamma oryzanol
– Prohormones
– Tribulus Terrestris
– Vanadyl sulfate (vanadium)
– Weight Loss Supplements
– Calcium Pyruvate
– Chitosan
– Chromium (for people who don’t have diabetes)
– L-Carnitine
– Phosphates
– Herbal diuretics
– Performance-Enhancing Supplements
– Glutamine
– Ribose
– Inosine

General Health Supplements Suggested for Athletes
Maintaining good health for active adults and athletes is essential. It is suggested athletes supplement with a few additional nutrients to stay healthy during intense exercise.  While there is no consensus among health experts as to whether adults should take multivitamins, the American Medical Association recommends a daily low-dose multivitamin to help ensure that adequate levels of nutrients are being met in the diet.  Although not recommended to enhance athletic performance, a multivitamin may be helpful for general health.

Dietary supplements are generally not required for the well-nourished active adult or athlete.  Many ergogenic aids are unreliable and should only be considered after careful evaluation of effectiveness, potency, and safety. Extra caution should also be taken because these products are not regulated by FDA. However, sports supplements are here to stay and can play a meaningful role in your training program.
Any supplement under consideration should be backed by chronic clinical studies and clear evidence of their health or ergogenic claims. In other words, become supplement smart for your health and athletic performance and consult a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or your healthcare provider if you have questions.

1.  U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance.
2.  Kerksick CM, Wilborn CD, Roberts MD, et al. ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendationsJ Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(1):38. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0242-y
3.  Kreider RB, Wilborn CD, Taylor L, et al. ISSN exercise & sport nutrition review: research & recommendationsJ Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7(1):7. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-7
4.  U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Dietary Supplements.
5.  Martínez-Sanz J, Sospedra I, Ortiz C, Baladía E, Gil-Izquierdo A, Ortiz-Moncada R. Intended or unintended doping? A review of the presence of doping substances in dietary supplements used in sportsNutrients. 2017;9(10):1093. doi:10.3390/nu9101093
6.  Nutrition and athletic performanceMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2016;48(3):543-568. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000852
7.  Bird JK, Murphy RA, Ciappio ED, McBurney MI. Risk of deficiency in multiple concurrent micronutrients in children and adults in the united statesNutrients. 2017;9(7). doi:10.3390/nu9070655
8.  Wallace TC, Frankenfeld CL, Frei B, et al. Multivitamin/multimineral supplement use is associated with increased micronutrient intakes and biomarkers and decreased prevalence of inadequacies and deficiencies in middle-aged and older adults in the united statesJ Nutr GerontolGeriatr. 2019;38(4):307-328. doi:10.1080/21551197.2019.1656135
9.  Porrini M, Del Boʼ C. Ergogenic aids and supplementsFront Horm Res. 2016;47:128-152. doi:10.1159/000445176
10. Tardy A-L, Pouteau E, Marquez D, Yilmaz C, Scholey A. Vitamins and minerals for energy, fatigue and cognition: a narrative review of the biochemical and clinical evidenceNutrients. 2020;12(1). doi:10.3390/nu12010228
11. Roy BA. Exercise and fluid replacement: brought to you by the american college of sports medicine www. Acsm. OrgACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal. 2013;17(4):3. doi:10.1249/FIT.0b013e318296bc4b
12. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Dehydration and Heat Stroke.
13. Cleveland Clinic. Should You Take a Multivitamin?

Thanks & Regards
Dr. Rahul Vijay Pendse
Medical Consultant- Health, Fitness & Sports Performance
Educator – Exercise & Sports Sciences

Why gloves are an important accessory for bicycle riders ?

Most riders ignore the importance of Bicycle gloves as an accessory. They are most of the time used as an afterthought, rather than a primary need. If you are a casual rider a good pair of grips is good enough. However, if you are a serious long-distance rider or aspire to be one, then having the right pair of bicycle gloves is a must. Not using gloves during long rides can lead to chaffing, blisters or potential numbness in fingers.
Let us see what are the key considerations for finding the right pair of bicycle gloves

Half Finger / Full finger:
Visibly you can see and differentiate between these two types. Your fingers are exposed in half finger gloves, whereas full finger gloves cover all your fingers. As a cyclist you tend to sweat after a long ride and it is necessary to have your fingers “aired” or sweat free for enjoying your ride. Half finger gloves are the best option in such cases, especially in Indian Subcontinent in all weather conditions. Full finger gloves are mostly used for off-roading or very cold seasons,

Velcro Strap / Pull On (Strapless design):
Traditionally the gloves have Velcro straps on the wrists for tight fitting. However, it is a general observation that the Velcro grips loosen over time and fail to close as nicely. Current trend is to have a Velcro-less design (Pull on type gloves). These gloves retain their elasticity and therefore the grip for a long time. This design is also typically a more snug fit design.

There are two surfaces for any glove – the outer side and the palm side. Fabric for both the sides is different. For the outer side, a breathable fabric (polyester / polyurethane) is used which dissipates moisture. This gives durability to the gloves. The material is often combined with 15% to 20% of Spandex / Lycra to give elasticity to the glove.  The inner / palm side of the glove is made of leather / leatherette / Synthatic fabric. The material is thicker than the outer side but is much softer to protect your palms. Most of the times this surface is perforated to allow free airflow thus reducing sweating.

Padding is provided at to protect the elevated parts of the palms i.e. base of fingers and both sides of palm. The padding reduces pressure on your ulner nerve. These inserts are of foam / gel. Gel inserts are found to be more effective as they work as credible shock-absorbers on long and bumpy rides. These inserts also protect you from palm injuries in case you have a fall.

This is an optional but a must have feature in high end gloves. The tugs on the two middle fingers of the glove, help remove the gloves out of the hands, especially after a long sweaty ride. Easy removal of the gloves ensures that the gloves are not torn and maintain their shape and size for a long time.

It is very important to have a glove fitting snugly to your hand.   A loose fitting glove may cause chaffing whereas a tight fitting glove may restrict blood-flow to your fingers. Please make sure that your bike gloves fit snugly enough that they don’t scrunch up and cause chafing,  but not so tightly that the webbing between your fingers is taut—something that will only increase when you grab your handlebars.
A very simple trick can tell you if you have the right fit. If you can’t make a fist, your gloves are too tight. On the other hand, if your gloves bunch up in the palms, they could be too loose.

To conclude,
Choosing your right pair of gloves is not rocket science but finding the right pair for you will be a lot easy if you give careful considerations to the points discussed above.
Happy Riding!!

Bicycle shorts – your trusted riding accessory

It may come as a surprise to many that bicycle riding gear (shorts/jersey/gloves) are technically engineered garments and go a long way in making your rides comfortable and sometimes even adding to your performance.

Key benefits of using a bicycle shorts

  • Riding comfort due to sufficient Padding (Gel / Foam) for the ischial (sit) bones
  • Freedom of movement of legs for cycling motion
  • Freedom from Saddle – Sores due to engineered pads and removal of seams
  • Wicking of sweat in the heat of exercise
  • A snug fit to enhance performance

Six elements make up a cycling shorts

  • Fabrics
  • Stitching
  • Panels
  • Padding
  • Thigh Grippers
  • Elastic Waistband

The key Selection criterion for each of the parameters can be discussed as below

Synthetic fibres make the fabrics in any bicycle shorts. The fabric composition is mostly 80% Polyester / nylon to 20% spandex / Lycra, but that can change a few percentages either way. When looking for bicycle shorts, make sure the fabric is stretchable in all directions (typically called as a 4 way stretch) Polyester gives the bike short its stretch, and the nylon provides compression and rugged structure. Look for a short that is at least 15% spandex. The higher the spandex content, the higher the stretch. 
The thickness of the fabric also matters a lot. Typically you should look for a 240 gsm (grams per sq. mtr) fabric as this gives enough strength to the fabric to withstand the abrasions and the leg movements during cycling. A lighter gsm fabric may be transparent and it may also not give you the longevity.

Cycling as an activity involves tremendous movements of your lower body. The bicycle shorts is typically form fitted to give you riding comfort. In such cases a simple aspect like stitching also becomes an important selection criteria. The stitching between the panels and that for the chamois pad should not be protruding as it can cause bruises during extensive riding. The stitches should be non-protruding – double flat locked, which will be smooth to touch.

A special cushion or pad is stitched in to the bicycle shorts so that it gives protection against abrasion.
Most pads use high-performance synthetic fibers like Coolmax brand polyester or polyurethane fibers. The surface of a pad is usually hydrophobic, which means they stay dry. The good quality padsare often treated with an antibacterial finish to diminish bacteria growth, leading to saddle sore prevention. A clean pad is an ideal way to prevent saddle sores.
Gel-filled pads are thick and ideal for absorbing shock and adding comfort to a sore butt. The gel provides a soft layer that absorbs the bike ride’s shock into the ischial sit bones. The gel adds a layer of comfort for new cyclists and those moving up in their mileage. A gel pad is suitable for all rides, long or short.
The correct pad can be a personal decision. Some people prefer thick to thin or foam to gel. Triathletes prefer lighter / thinner pads (most of them foam based). The position of the pad within the shorts is also most important. Most riders in competitive or endurance rides will prefer the pad placement so as to have the sit bone padding in the correct spot when in an aggressive riding position.

Modern fabrics with high (4 way) stretch fit much better. These fabrics are cut into panels to make a “custom-fit” short. Bicycle shorts are created by sewing panels together. The most popular number of panels is six, but four and eight are also common. Higher panel counts allow us to create shorts that fit the cycling position better. If you hold up a pair of six or eight-panel shorts, you will see a curve built into the short. This curve also helps keep the pad in the correct location. 

Waist Band and Thigh Grippers:
These elastic components go a long way in holding the shorts in the correct position even after rigorous cycling motions of the body.
A good waistband will be fi and stiff enough to facilitate free motions for the rider in all the riding positions – standing, sitting or aero mode.
Thigh grippers are the bands in the bottom of the legwhich hold the shorts “in place” and stops them from riding up. Thigh gripper elastics come in many different styles and widths, but all pretty much serve the same purpose. A good thigh gripper should be wide enough and should have a soft but firm grip. Most of the grippers today are of fabric with high stretch. Such grippers do not cause allergic reactionsas in erstwhile silicone grippers and also do not cause injuries due to repeated friction of gripper against skin.

The graphic above gives components and selection considerations in a nutshell. Please note that a properly chosen and fitted shorts will always enhance your cycling experience.