• Protein requirements for female athletes
    Blog,  Nutrition,  Sports nutrition,  Supplements

    Protein requirements for female athletes

    Are protein requirements for female athletes the same than those of male athletes? Although it makes sense to think that body composition, energy metabolism and sex hormones may play a role in nutrient requirements, there are no fast and hard rules, but sensible guidelines as detailed below. Protein requirements for female athletes In theory, female athletes should have slightly lower protein requirements than their male counterparts because oestrogen causes exercising female bodies to increase fatty acid oxidation and decrease amino acid (and carbohydrate) oxidation (1, 2). Moreover, protein catabolism is higher in the luteal phase when oestrogen and progesterone are high (1). On the other hand, some studies seem to…

  • How to improve body composition
    Blog,  Diet,  Nutrition,  Sports nutrition,  Supplements

    How to improve body composition

    As seen previously, improving body composition can confer a competitive advantage to some athletes. Hence the interest of athletes and coaches on how to improve body composition. In general, improving body composition means decreasing fat mass and increasing fat-free mass or muscle mass (a.k.a. lean body mass). Besides training protocols and periodisation, there are nutrition approaches that can achieve a favourable change. How to improve body composition Body composition can be improved using a variety of nutrition approaches. Broadly speaking, they can be categorised as dietary manipulation (e.g. tweaking energy intake or macronutrient levels) and supplementation. Note that not all research in this area is done on athletes. Some studies…

  • What are postbiotics
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    What are postbiotics?

    In a previous article What are synbiotics? we spoke about some of the players in gut health. This week we will introduce a new term as we discuss: What are postbiotics? What are postbiotics? Postbiotics are metabolites (i.e. byproducts of metabolic processes) secreted by live bacteria or released by dead bacteria which provide health benefits to the host (1, 2). Other names given to postbiotics are metabiotics, biogenics or metabolite/cell-free supernatants (1). Types of postbiotics Postbiotics include, but are not limited to: Short-chain fatty acids (SFCAs) produced by fermentation of non-digestible dietary fibre by gut bacteria. The most abundant SCFAs are acetate, propionate and butyrate (1, 2, 3, 4) Secondary…

  • Blog,  Diet,  Health,  Nutrition

    What are synbiotics?

    If the word “synbiotics” rings a bell is probably because it sounds like prebiotics and probiotics. All these terms relate to the gut microbiome in ways we will explore to answer the question: what are synbiotics? The microorganisms that populate our gastrointestinal system, or gut microbiome, has been the focus of much research in the past several decades. It is now known that the gut microbiome is involved in immune function, digestion, gut integrity and production of vitamins, among other important functions (1, 2). Probiotics Probiotics are live non-pathogenic microorganisms that can confer health benefits when taken in appropriate doses (1, 3, 4). Probiotics can act on the gut microbiome…

  • Can magnesium improve exercise performance
    Blog,  Diet,  Nutrition,  Sports nutrition,  Supplements

    Can magnesium improve exercise performance?

    Last week we talked about magnesium and health. This week we answer the next logical question: Can magnesium improve exercise performance? What is magnesium? As a reminder, magnesium is an essential mineral present mainly in bone and other tissues in the body. Magnesium and exercise As seen in the previous article, magnesium is involved in many functions in the body, including energy metabolism, bone development, muscle contraction and relaxation. Magnesium can bind to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the energy currency in the body (1). It can also bind enzymes that act on RNA and DNA (2). In addition, magnesium is involved in the balance of other essential elements in…

  • Magnesium and health
    Blog,  Diet,  Health,  Nutrition

    Magnesium and health

    The relationship between magnesium and health is widely studied because of the importance of this essential nutrient in many body functions and the prevention of chronic diseases. What is magnesium? Magnesium is a mineral involved as a cofactor in many processes within the body, including metabolic functions (energy production, glucose breakdown, protein synthesis, RNA and DNA synthesis), bone development, immune and neuromuscular function (1, 2, 3). It’s also involved in the balance of calcium, sodium, potassium and antioxidants (1, 2, 4). The total amount of magnesium in an adult is about 25 grams, of which 50-60% is located in the bones (1, 3) and about 0.3% in serum (2). This…

  • Milk as a sports supplement
    Blog,  Diet,  Health,  Nutrition,  Sports nutrition

    Milk as a sports supplement

    Milk as a sports supplement? Why not! Milk is a relatively inexpensive source of many nutrients, which include protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals. Milks from different ruminants (e.g. cows, goats, water buffalo) have similar nutrient profiles. However, for the sake of this article we will be talking about cow’s milk as it’s the most available and commonly consumed. Nutrients in milk Milk and other dairy foods contain calcium, protein, B vitamins (including B2 and B12), vitamins A and D, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iodine. The table below shows average content for some nutrients of different types of plain cow’s milk (data from 1). A glass of milk has 8…

  • Pre-workout supplements
    Blog,  Nutrition,  Sports nutrition,  Supplements

    Pre-workout supplements

    Pre-workout supplements are among the most heavily-marketed products targeted to recreational and elite athletes. In this article we will discuss if they work and if they are safe. What are pre-workout supplements? Also known as multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, these are products designed to be taken before exercise to enhance performance. They typically contain several ingredients in various quantities which are sometimes undisclosed and marked as “proprietary blends” (1, 2, 3). Common ingredients Common ingredients in pre-workout supplements include caffeine, creatine and beta-alanine (2, 3), branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), nitrates (2), citrulline, taurine, tyrosine and B vitamins (3). Jagim et al. analysed 100 pre-workout products and found that, in average, they…

  • Should you take BCAAs
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    Should you take BCAAs?

    Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) is the name given to three of the nine essential amino acids. BCAAs are sold as a sports supplement to increase muscle synthesis and recovery. Today we answer the question: Should you take BCAAs? What are BCAAs? BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are essential amino acids (EAAs), meaning they cannot be made by our bodies and must be taken from the diet. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are not metabolised in the liver (1, 2) but in skeletal muscle (2). They can be oxidised and used as energy (2, 3). BCAA supplements are commonly used in athletic populations. Most supplements…

  • How to strengthen your immune system
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    How to strengthen your immune system

    With the COVID-19 situation in full swing many people are wondering what they can do to prevent getting sick. While hygiene and social distancing are the main recommendations, it is also important to know how to strengthen your immune system to be more resilient to this or any other infection. What is the immune system? The immune system is the name we give to all the parts of our bodies that are involved in defending us against pathogens (things that make us sick), repairing injured tissues, and keeping abnormal growths and self-attacks in check. This includes whole organs such as the skin, cells such as B cells and T cells,…