- Created on 20 February 2014
- Written by jack miler
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To look at all the ads for sports drinks, energy bars, electrolyte drinks replacers, and sports candies, you'd think these engineered products are a necessary part of a sports diet.
Soccer players routinely ask Nancy for advice about how to use these products. Before she can answer their questions about which (if any) commercial sports foods are valuable for enhancing performance, she first needs to assess their daily sports diet to determine if they can get—or are getting—what they need from standard foods.
Many soccer athletes believe commercial sports foods are the best sources of carbohydrates and sodium. Wrong. In most cases, a wisely chosen sports diet can supply all their needs—plus more!
While there is a time and a place for engineered sports foods (particularly among players who train at high intensity), many players and their families needlessly waste a lot of money misusing them having electrolyte drinks. The purpose of this chapter is to help you become an informed consumer, so you can understand how best to use these products, and wisely spend your soccer dollars.
Pre-exercise Energy Bars
Fueling with a pre-workout energy bar and sports drink is an expensive way ($2 to $3) to energize your workout. You could less expensively consume 300 calories of banana+yogurt+water ($1) or pretzels+raisins+water (50¢). These choices, or ones like them, are carbohydrate-rich and will offer the fuel your muscles need for a stellar workout. Commercial energy bars do not contain any magic ingredients that will enhance performance more than, for example, a granola bar, bagel, or fig cookies and water.electrolyte beverage Standard supermarket foods can do that as well as engineered foods.
The best pre-soccer snacks digest easily, settle well in your stomach, and do not “talk back to you.” Experiment to determine what foods your body accommodates best. (Refer to Chapter 10 for more information about how to fuel best before exercise.)
Energy drinks offer enough sugar and caffeine to give most any athlete a quick energy boost. The problem is, one quick fix will not compensate for missed meals. That is, if you sleep through breakfast and barely eat lunch, having a Red Bull for a pre-workout energizer will unlikely compensate for the previous inadequate food intake. If you can make the time to train, you can also make the time to fuel appropriately, rather than rely on a quick fix.
A popular “ergogenic aid,” caffeine enhances performance by making the effort seem easier. For players who are accustomed to consuming caffeine, a pre- exercise caffeine-fix—especially if accompanied by carbs (e.g. from food)—can energize your workout. But for other players, caffeine can make them feel nervous, jittery electrolyte drinks, and nauseous.electrolyte imbalance symptoms Be sure to experiment with pre-exercise caffeine during training to determine how your body responds. For some, an effective intake is about 1.5 mg caffeine per pound of body weight (3 mg/kg), or about 200 mg for a 150 pound player, but tolerance varies greatly.
Many athletes believe the sodium in sports drinks is essential to replace the sodium lost in sweat. Wrong. Sports drinks are actually relatively low in sodium compared to what you consume in your meals. Sodium enhances fluid retention and helps keep you better hydrated, as compared to plain water.
If you sweat heavily, you might lose about 1,000 to 3,000 mg sodium in an hour of hard exercise.
As you can see, in terms of sodium, there is no need for any soccer player to consume a sports drink with her lunch, because the soup or cheese sandwich have far more sodium than the small amount of sodium in the sports drink. By consuming some salty food such as 8 ounces of chicken broth before exercising in the heat, you can get a hefty dose of sodium into your body before you even begin to play. Having salty pre-exercise food has also been shown to enhance endurance. (Sims) (If soup isn’t for you, have other equivalents, such as salted baked chips.)
One collegiate soccer player reported using electrolyte drinks throughout the day. He then admitted he didn't even know what electrolytes are. They are electrically charged particles, more commonly known as sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. electrolyte imbalance Standard foods abound with electrolytes, more so than engineered sports foods. Note how few electrolytes the engineered foods contain compared to real foods.
Vitamin Water and Vitamin-Enriched Sports Foods
Many engineered foods tout they are enriched with B-vitamins “for energy.” True, B-vitamins are needed to convert food into energy, but they are not sources of energy. The body has a supply of vitamins stored in the liver, so you are unlikely to become deficient during exercise.
Soccer players—who eat far more food, hence more vitamins, than do sedentary people—have the opportunity to consume abundant vitamins. A large bowl of Wheaties offers 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for B-vitamins. (Most cereals, breads, pastas and other grain foods are enriched with B-vitamins, unless they are “all natural.”) Eight ounces of orange juice offers 100% of the DV for Vitamin C. In contrast, 8 ounces of Energy Tropical Citrus Vitamin Water offers only 40% of the DV for C. Check labels on all these products to comparison shop.
During intense games, consuming a gel or sports drink at half time can help boost your energy. So can any sugary food—honey, jelly beans, sports beans, defizzed cola. Think twice before you spend your money on Sports Beans ($1/100-calorie packet) for an afternoon snack. Like sports drinks, sports beans are designed to be consumed during exercise and electrolytes food. Regular jelly beans would be a far less expensive snack. Better yet, raisins, dried pineapple, or grapes are a healthier snack option.
Not everyone needs sports foods to enhance their performance. While they can be a convenient source of pre-wrapped calories that travel well, they are not magic. Many soccer players report standard foods taste better and are more enjoyable.electrolyte drinks As an educated consumer, learn what works best for your body. And always experiment first during training with any new food or fuel that you might use during a game!
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