4. Think micro
When we think of what makes up the content of our food, we usually break things up into fats, carbohydrates and protein. These macronutrients are needed in large quantities by the body for energy production. Micronutrients, which consist of vitamins and minerals, are needed in much smaller quantities but play very important roles in everyday processes such as immunity function, metabolism, heart beat regulations, cellular pH and bone density.
For an athlete, micronutrient deficiencies can show themselves in the form of severe fatigue, illness and muscle cramping. While the best way to get all your necessary micronutrients is by eating a balanced diet and avoiding processed foods, micronutrient supplementation can help bridge the gap, especially for the time-pressed age-group triathlete. Jason Houston, senior vice president of the micronutrient supplement company EnduroPacks, experienced the benefits of supplementation first hand after taking up triathlon nine years ago. “I was training a lot, and I was also getting sick a lot, and I just couldn’t figure out why,” Houston says. “I, like a lot of triathletes, was overly focused on the training aspect of my routine and I wasn’t focusing enough on the recovery aspect and how to repair my muscles after each workout.” Micronutrient supplementation, particularly amino acids taken after a workout, have really made a difference for him.
Dietitian Franks cautions athletes not to use micronutrient supplementation as a Band-Aid for bad eating habits. “Before you spend a bunch of money on supplements, you need to take the time to figure out what is really missing in your diet,” she says. “Plus, a lot of triathletes are subscribing to a high-protein, Paleolithic diet, and if they aren’t careful they are seriously skimping on their fiber intake as a result. Fiber is really important for nutrient absorption, whether you’re getting it through supplements or, ideally, through whole foods.”