What is an athlete?
If Rio 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that an athlete is an individual proficient in their field – the very best of which being world class. The word itself comes from ‘Athelin’ – Greek for ‘compete for a prize’. Competition is defined as, ‘the activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others’. Put these meanings together and you can start to build a picture of what an athlete represents.
Regardless of chosen pursuit or skill level, a genuine athlete will be determined, dedicated and relentless in their training. These people are meticulous with their routines, programming, nutrition and goal setting to a point where sacrifice is often necessary. It’s not uncommon for an athlete to phase training into their routine 3-4 times per day, which could include resistance work, cardiovascular training, conditioning, flexibility, recovery work and more. How does someone like this not just burn out and give up?
In some respect they are a different breed – almost certainly possessing an insatiable hunger for success – however if you ask an athlete how their body withstands the physical toll, they will tell you the importance of supplementation. An athlete’s body is trained hard numerous times per day, meaning it is imperative they get quality nutrients, vitamins and minerals into their system to assist recovery. Let’s take a look at a few – some of which may surprise you.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are a popular supplement within the fitness industry, yet still overlooked by some gym-goers. When high quality fish oil is taken in large enough amounts, it provides the greatest bang for your buck as far as supplements are concerned. You will benefit from improved cardiovascular health and function, higher lipid profiles (lower triglycerides) and greater brain function, with an additional boost from its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Athletes and those with body composition goals should start with 3,000 mg of fish oil spread out in 2-3 servings (it only lasts in the body about 8 hours) and work toward taking up to 6,000 mg per day.
B-Vitamins increase energy production and help improve your mood, helping to detoxify which is vital after exercise. The process of building and repairing muscle depletes B-Vitamins, so if you’re training like an athlete you may need to take extra B-Vitamins to help the rebuilding process, as you are burning through them at an alarming rate.
Magnesium is important to athletes because it regulates heart rhythm, allows muscles to contract and relax efficiently, reduces blood pressure and is necessary to produce ATP (the main source of energy in our cells). This is best taken post-workout on an empty stomach. Sedentary individuals need 600 mg a day and larger athletes in heavy training mode require up to 2,000 mg a day.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and can be used pre, during and after training. We consume proteins in our normal diets, but supplementing with particular types of proteins at different times can greatly improve our performance and recovery. Protein reduces the amount of stress hormones (mainly cortisol) released in our bodies when we exercise or come under stress. Whey is a highly marketed protein and is fairly inexpensive, so is frequently used by athletes. However, you’ll find that top athletes will supplement with the highest quality whey isolate powder, which is virtually lactose free and has zero fats or sugars. Dependant on training type they will then add in a quality carbohydrate supplement if required.
ZMA (Zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6)
ZMA is a supplement made up of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. It will aid in improved muscle recovery, increased strength and size, better sleep and some even report it as a weight loss aid. I personally use this regularly, and find it helps massively during periods of intense training, to achieve deeper sleep and better recovery.
Chockfull of superfoods, vitamins, minerals and active ingredients, a decent Greens Powder can support you with a large hit of dense nutrients in one supplement. The main benefits are an improved immune function and gut health. With a healthy digestive system the body can uptake and utilise nutrients much more effectively, which in turn will assist your training goals.
So whether you’re an athlete or not, we all look in awe at the pure brilliance that some individuals can deliver. But don’t forget, world-class performances are developed and nurtured over years of relentless training. Everyone has to start somewhere, but you can almost guarantee the ones that work hardest – and exercise smart supplementation – will emerge victorious.
About the Author
Ben Rowe is the Lead Coach at Team Benbo Body Coaching. Team Benbo have over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, sharing their in-depth knowledge around Sports Specific Training, Nutrition, Online Coaching and Competition Preparation.