What the Pros use and what you should consider
By Nigel Mitchell, Head of Nutrition Cannondale Drapac
As a sports dietitian, I am often asked about potential benefits of taking nutritional supplements. My approach tends to be pretty conservative. You should only take a supplement if there is a sound rationale for it. However many people use nutritional supplements and feel that they benefit from them. In this article, I will attempt to explain a little bit about the benefits of supplements. I will go through the products we use with riders for the Tour de France, and then you can decide what may be of use for yourself.
Sports Foods and Supplements
I consider products such as protein powders, gels, and hydration drinks as sports foods. These supply nutrients that we can get from our regular diet, but are packaged for convenience.
I consider products such as vitamins, omega 3 and well-being products as supplements. These are also nutrients that we can get from our regular diet but at times it may be more challenging, or we may have greater demands. Nutritional ergogenic aids are nutrients that if taken in much larger quantities than can typically be supplied from the diet may improve performance in certain circumstances, e.g. creatine, caffeine, and sodium bicarbonate.
What do the Pros use (this is in no order of preference)
• Omega 3: We aim to supply 2g of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) a day, this is for many reasons but mainly to help regulate the bodies ‘stress’ levels.
• Iron: Professional riders often have low ferritin stores (iron). The main reason is during hard training and racing the body produces a hormone called hepcidin, and this reduces iron absorption. We increase the uptake by increasing the amount of iron available. We use regular small doses throughout the day.
• Pro-biotics: We use a product which contains both pre and probiotics (the pre-biotics provide the food for the good bacteria).
• Recovery drink: immediately after the stage we give the riders a bottle of recovery protein that provides 20g of protein from a dairy whey source. It is fortified with leucine, cysteine, and hydroxymethyl butyrate (HMB). This is designed to help reduce muscle damage.
• Montmorency-tart-cherry-juice: Can help to reduce muscle soreness and supports sleep. (Coming soon)
Quality assurance, we work hard to ensure that the products we supply the riders are free from contaminants which may lead to a positive doping violation.
If you are using or thinking of using supplements, all of the products listed above can benefit your training and racing. Omega 3's and immunity products are beneficial for daily usage. Vitamin D is one I often I recommend for both professional athletes and non-athletes alike especially in the winter months. The latest research is consistently showing that the general population is deficient.
No matter what supplements you chose, remember that the most important piece of the equation is starting with a balanced diet.