Nutrition In Sport: What Are We Missing?
Diet and sport, one of the most openly diversely interpreted ways of ensuring well-being within the human body, can promote perfection with mind, body and results given, applied in the correct way.
To help with perfection, websites, tips and experts all preach the promotion of diet in sport, and rightly so. A well thought out, thorough plan of the correct nutrients your body requires is undervalued by many of today's participants.
Expert dietary advice is no more sought after than in Rugby League; a high impact, explosive contact sport designed for the not so faint hearted.
Glycogen, one of the most valued components of a Rugby League players dietary requirements, can be recognised when players 'carb up' the night before a game.
According to Sports Diets Australian one of the leading advice websites for Rugby League dietary information "Glycogen stores have been shown to reduce by 40% over a professional competitive rugby league match."
According to KidsHealth "Glucose is the main source of fuel for our cells. When the body doesn't need to use the glucose for energy, it stores it in the liver and muscles. This stored form of glucose is made up of many connected glucose molecules and is called glycogen. When the body needs a quick boost of energy or when the body isn't getting glucose from food, glycogen is broken down to release glucose into the bloodstream to be used as fuel for the cells."
Glycogen rich foods, which tend to be "polysaccharides which contain many monosaccharide units" according to Quora, where 'Poly' refers to the amount of molecules and 'Saccharide' refers to sugar (four sugars) consists of starchy foods such as potatoes, pastas, rice and breads. This of course is the widely sought after staple diet for any sports participant 'carbing up' the night before a match, as high glycogen levels will help benefit personal performance.
Whilst the issue of Glycogen and 'carbing up' within sport is widely agreed upon, the issue of protein however remains one of the hottest topics to date, splitting self declared "meat eaters" and "vegans" into a frenzy of debate.
Protein, which is made up of Amino-acid building blocks, helps promote the building of muscles and bones and can also be used for fighting infection, making hormones, speeding up reactions, the creation of oxygen, growing and repairing. According to The Vegan Society "meat eaters have a recommended intake of 0.75g per kilogram of body weight, vegans are recommended to consume 1g per kilogram of body weight", this is because of the way our body handles protein differently in meat eaters and vegans.
Many would wonder why meat eaters require 0.25g per kilogram less protein but unfortunately the answer isn't superiority.
'Casein' which self produces inside the body on the consumption of animal proteins, produces a residue inside the gut, dissipating around the body ensuring Casein can be found in muscles, organs and the brain as a result of consumption. The [approximately] 0.25g per Kilogram shortfall is replaced as fluid which is created inside the stomach of a meat eater which ensures the recipient needs less protein than vegans.
The production of Casein is somewhat like a back handed compliment, although meat products provide many meat eaters with protein, Casein is directly linked to Cancer and Heart disease.
Although these claims may seem outlandish, Dr T. Colin Campbell PHD states in the documentary 'Forks over knives' "20% Casein turned on cancer and 5% turned off cancer" he then goes on to further add "we learn that animal protein is really good in turning on cancer".
During physical recreation, the introduction of Casein flowing through a meat eaters muscles can only be addressed with the same scepticism as the cancer causing properties.
Animal proteins are acidic by nature, whereas the human body is Naturally Alkaline. According to Michael Gregor M.D "Animal protein creates a 'metabolic acid load' which promotes higher forming sulphur content". This promotes sulphur around meat eaters bones which in turn affects bone quality and muscle growth.
Veganism in elite sport isn't as uncommon as one might think. Anthony Mullally (Rugby League) proclaimed earlier this year his dietary commitment, along with Jermaine Defoe (Football), once considered to be at the end of his career playing in the MLS - he eventually found himself returning to the Premier League with an England call up, surprising many pundits as he was considered past his best long before he revitalised his career.
Jermaine Defoe pays tribute to his veganism saying "I think I’ve managed [to adopt veganism] successfully. My girlfriend suggested I gave it a go. Well, she said to me: ‘You’ve got to do it’ and she’s always showing me documentaries on it". Anthony Mullally has adopted a more evidence based approach stating "I feel evidence is more compelling for a vegan diet."
While Mullally and Defoe may very well be ahead of the game, websites such as MDPI Nutrients re-affirm the sports stars' words after research conducted states "The 21 vegans were found to have lower blood pressure, and lower fasting triacylglycerol and glucose concentrations than 25 omnivorous [meat eater] subjects, as well as a biochemical profile that was cardioprotective and beta-cell protective. Similarly, the health characteristics of 21 sedentary vegans who followed a long-term raw vegan diet were found to be comparable to that of endurance exercisers, with reduced BMI, lipids, lipoproteins, glucose, insulin, C-reactive protein, blood pressure and carotid artery intima-media thickness when compared to 21 sedentary subjects following a Western diet."
These claims, although conducted through thorough research, still set doubt in meat eaters minds, as eating meat is considered a 'masculine' food to consume. This is clearly illustrated in advertising - for example depicting X-Men’s Mystique morphing into a ripped manly man after consuming a bacon cheeseburger (with the tagline “Man Up”) and Burger King’s "I Am Man Advert, in which a guy sings about not settling for “chick food”. The meat industries grip on masculinity remains tight.
Food in sport has just been dealt a major curve ball. The Premiership campaign along with a winter of Rugby League World Cup action in Australia starting this Friday, raises the question around the best delivery of food excellence and remains a question mark in Western society.
But with personal health benefits preached from the converted, maybe nutrition in sport will grow to develop a different dynamic?