Supplements, Performance Enhancers, and Engineered Sports Foods

Once upon a time, athletes enjoyed a well-balanced diet based on natural sports foods—bananas, orange juice, yogurt, pasta, spinach, chicken. Today, many athletes fuel themselves from a shopping cart filled with engineered bars, powders, potions, and supplements. They graze on carbohydrate, protein, amino acids, and vitamin pills, with little mention of enjoyable meals shared with family and friends.

There's no denying the sports food and supplement industry is booming. Competitors are fighting for a niche, and advertisements for their products lead us to believe that engineered nutrition is a better way to optimize health and performance. (Doubtful.) Although there is a time and a place for engineered nutrition, commercial products should be used knowledgeably, at the right times for the right reasons. Commercial products advertise promises of enhanced performance and nutritional excellence, but please don't miss this important point: Natural foods contain components that interact in highly complex ways to synergisti-cally benefit your overall health.

Eating food as close to its natural form as possible is by far the best bet for improving health, preventing disease, optimizing healing, and thus enhancing performance. Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy foods, nuts, and legumes are all rich in a combination of the important vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, fat, carbohydrate, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that athletes need on a daily basis to stay in the game. The purpose of this chapter is to help you wade through the plethora of confusing information and understand the appropriate situations for choosing engineered sports foods, vitamin supplements, and energy enhancers.

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