Importance of Supplements in your Diet

Are you getting enough nutrients in your diet to ensure optimal health?  Even Americans often suffer nutritional deficiencies!  This is often true of dieters and athletes.  Including supplements in your diet is an important step towards protecting against such deficiencies.

Why do you suppose so many people in the U.S. consume insufficient amounts of at least one or more essential vitamins and minerals?  Perhaps one of the main causes of malnutrition in our country is living off diets that consist mainly of high-calorie, high-fat foods that offer very little nutritional value!  Fast food is a prime example of this type of diet.  

Consequences of Nutrient Depletion in Athletes

Everyone has daily nutritional needs.  Active individuals typically need extra amounts of water, electrolytes, magnesium, iron, calcium, protein, fat (especially Omega-3 fatty acids), carbohydrates, B vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients. 

During intense physical activity, the body undergoes metabolic changes that require reaching into the body’s store of nutrients.  After exercise, the body goes through a period of adaptation and recovery.  During both strenuous activity and the recovery process afterwards, athletes need to replenish the essential nutrients in their bodies to avoid the consequences of nutrient depletion.

What are some possible results of nutritional deficiencies among athletes?  Inadequate nutrition may result in only minor health issues, such as lack of energy, or it may lead to more serious health complications, including death.

Let’s take a look at female runners, for example.  This particular group of athletes has been prone to suffer anemia due to insufficient iron intake.  Iron-poor blood does not carry enough oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Anemia can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and fatigue.  It can make one feel weak and irritable.  Severe anemia may be associated with even more detrimental symptoms, including passing out and/or heart attack.

Female runners are also frequently deficient in calcium.  Calcium is essential in many of the body’s metabolic processes and for proper blood clotting.  It builds strong bones and teeth and is a major structural component of soft tissues.  Calcium deficits can result in weakened bones.  Therefore, female runners who do not get enough calcium are at greater risk of stress fractures.

Diets that include sufficient amounts of fat are also necessary to support good health in active females.  According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, research has found that female athletes who consume too little dietary fat may be at risk of sports injuries.  Test results concluded that “injured runners had significantly lower intakes of total fat…and percentage of kilocalories from fat…compared with non-injured runners.” 

Too little protein in one’s diet can negatively affect the body.  Lack of protein can cause skin problems.  It can lead to fatigue and weakness.  In fact, too little protein can hinder the body’s ability to carry out certain processes (repairing and creation of cells and tissues, for instance).  

Athletes need plenty of protein in their diets to help maintain blood and repair body tissue after workouts.  Protein is necessary in practically all processes that occur within the body, including digestion and metabolism.  It contributes to healthy skin, hair, and nails, as well as healthy bones and strong muscles.  Protein also boosts the immune system to ward off disease.        

Insufficient water consumption can lead to dehydration.  Dehydration can be quite dangerous…even deadly.  Adequate amounts of water consumption is essential to maintain enough blood and other fluids in the body for proper body functioning.  Active people lose more water from the body during exercise and should take care to hydrate enough to compensate for this loss.    

How Supplements May Help Active People

Although athletes may strive to follow healthier eating habits, they may not always get enough essential nutrients through diet alone to support their active lifestyles. 

Of course, if you eat a well-balanced diet that consists of an adequate amount of calories to fuel your active body, you most likely will not experience any grave nutrient shortages.  The problem, once again, is that most Americans in general just don’t eat enough of all the essential food groups to guarantee that they will not become deficient in one or more nutrients.

If you’re an active person, it may be even more important to include supplements in your daily diet.  Supplements can help to protect against diet deficits that may be related to your active lifestyle.  In turn, supplements can reduce your risk of sports injuries while boosting your energy level and improving your performance.

Written by Cyndi Waters, Fitness Researcher and Writer


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