One can’t help wonder if the nutrition information provided by fitness gurus, nutrition companies and healthcare specialists is trustworthy. There is a sea of contradictory news on the best fuels for our hard-at-work bodies. At the end of the day (or training session), how are you supposed to know what to believe? Here are 3 common myths, and the real truth you need to know:
MYTH #1: Protein is for gym fanatics rather than endurance athletes.
This statement makes no sense at all. Everybody needs their fair share of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), even those people who are inactive. All cells are made up of protein (including skin, organs, muscle, hair, nails and other tissues), which means that every kilogram of body weight requires at least one gram of protein. Active individuals who average 30 minutes of exercise on a daily basis need more protein (roughly 1.4 grams per kilo of weight) and endurance athletes will require as much as 1.6 grams of the precious nutrient per kilogram body weight. Don’t skimp on protein at meals and snacks, and read labels carefully to choose foods with at least 10 grams of protein per serving. Add sports supplements composed of protein or amino acids (such as protein powders and bars, for example) after 2 hours of continuous physical effort to heal muscular wear and tear during a longer training, and to starve off hunger.
MYTH #2: Drinking too much water is risky business.
This statement is running wild and making sports magazine covers. Of course, drinking many gallons of water is useless and can cause a burden on your kidneys and other organs. Also, excessive water intake can lead to hyponatremia, a case of over-dilution of sodium in the blood, with unpleasant symptoms like weakness and confusion. The bottom line, however, is that most sports enthusiasts don’t drink enough water throughout the day and during training. This is worrisome considering that a 1% drop in body hydration (which amounts to just a few ounces of water) can decrease alertness, bring on fatigue and impair physical performance. H2O is a must to replace sweat and urine, keep the body cool (or warm in colder weather) and increase endurance. I swear by the following rule-of-thirst : 10 millilitres per minute of exercising, in addition to the recommended 2 liters daily if you are a woman and 2.5 liters a day if you are a man. When you feel thirsty, it’s usually too late, so drink up ahead of time!
MYTH #3: Multivitamins are heal-alls and energy boosters.
Rumour has it that industrial processing is impacting our food sources, and putting us all at risk of nutritional deficiencies. No doubt, our forks are quite far from the farms and fields, but this doesn’t justify our collective vitamin and mineral addiction. Some individuals have greater-than-usual nutritional needs: this is true for athletes, vegans, and people with allergies or other food restrictions, and those with very low-calorie diets, for example. Since any lack of one or another nutrient can cause immune deficiency and fatigue in the long run, supplementation with a multivitamin may be useful in some cases (speak with your doctor and/or nutritionist to evaluate your own specific vitamin/mineral profile). It is important to realize however that multivitamins do not provide calories, therefore they are not sources of energy. Rather, they serve as metabolic aids for bodily functions, such as energy metabolism and tissue repair. Smart eating and wise fueling are the pillars of healthy living and productive training, so learn to recognize fact from fiction, and consult a professional when in doubt.