The Necessity of Nutrition: Conquering Stress and Reaching Peak Performance
KX are proud to be supporting the Ben Ainslie Racing team in their training and nutrition in preparation for their quest to bring home the America’s Cup to Britain. Aidan Goggins, KX nutrition and medicine consultant, and nutritionist to the BAR team, talks about the necessity of nutrition in conquering stress and reaching peak performance.
We are constantly being advised to get moving to manage stress. So it may surprise you to learn that exercise is actually a stressor and, in mild quantities, creates a damaging and inflammatory effect in the body. However, the effect is so mild that the body is not only able to cope with it; it also induces a beneficial over-compensatory response that not only repairs the damaged cells but produces improvements in cellular fitness. In other words; exercise is a “good stress”, triggering an adaptation process that produces numerous body and performance benefits, as well as aiding in the prevention and management of numerous inflammatory diseases like diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, depression and many others.
But, what about when we push ourselves to our limits? You would be forgiven for increasing your efforts in the gym with the aim of banishing all troubles out of your mind.
Unfortunately, engaging in intense exercise when already under stress sets us up for adverse outcomes. For the average person, only 5 hours of intense exercise a week sets the stage for increased cardiovascular events later in life. More imminently, those engaging in strenuous exercise succumb to far more infections and injuries.
Worse still is for athletes, who frequently push themselves to the limit often exposing them to the risk of Overtraining Syndrome, characterised by fatigue, performance decrements, mood changes and loss of motivation, lasting weeks and often months.
So is the answer to train less? Clearly an unsatisfactory compromise for anyone reliant on peak performance? No, instead the solution is in the food we eat; food that contains nutrients that allow us to train hard without fear of unwelcome damage.
Many of the critical nutrients are currently missing from the UK diet leaving our population, especially our athletes, massively vulnerable. Here we look at four of the most important nutrients for improving performance.
Selenium & Omega-3 Fish Oils
This feisty nutrient is capable of delivering potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
It fuels a family of protective enzymes in the body (called glutathione peroxidases), allowing them to manage increasing physical stress. With selenium lacking from our diets, due to low levels in UK soil, there is a need for all Britons to supplement. Recommendations are: 25mcg a day for children, 50mcg a day for women, 100mcg a day for men and between 100 – 200 mcg a day for elite athletes.
Omega-3 (Fish) Oils
Three quarters of us in the UK do not include oily fish as part of our routine dietary habits. And what a pity! Like motor oil for a car, fish oil is essential for our wellbeing; reducing wear and tear of the heart, brain and joints.
Incorporating two servings of oily fish into our weekly diet (herring, salmon, trout mackerel) will provide most of us with our omega- 3 needs. Its benefits in countering the adverse effects of strenuous exercise mean athletes may need additional supplements of 1-3 grams/ day
Vitamin D & Sirtuin Activators
We’ve long since known that the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D, is important for healthy bones. Now evidence is mounting to suggest Vitamin D plays a critical role in preventing a range of modern day afflictions, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and common cancers. Researchers have recently found that we need Vitamin D for the proper functioning of hundreds genes involved in inflammatory and autoimmune responses, cardiovascular function and cellular growth.
Tragically as much as 90% of the UK population are low in Vitamin D, particularly through winter. With dietary sources not cutting it, supplements of 400-800IU a day for children, 1000-1200IU a day for adults and up to 2000IU a day for elite athletes are recommended.
Sirtuin Activators are specific plant derived substances which provoke a low grade, controlled, biological stress response that up-regulates our body’s defenses. This is the perfect complement to exercise, increasing our adaptation rate, allowing us to tolerate greater exercise stress. It’s for this reason that sirtuin activators have been associated with enhanced health and longevity as well as significant increases in exercise performance.
To realise the tremendous benefits of sirtuin activators, we should incorporate plants rich in them into our diet, including leafy greens like kale, watercress, argula, parsley, lovage as well as onions, olives, berries and fresh herbs and spices.
For more nutritional advice or to book a consultation with our Nutritional Medicine team at KX, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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