In reality, most triathletes take supplements. With the advantage increased energy and nutrient requirements, a desire to enhance performance, and a greater degree of food and exercise based inflammation, we really can get a bit of a benefit by popping pills (legally, of course).
However, many athletes indiscriminately grab their “morning handful” of capsules, swallow them, and “check off” their nutrition supplements for the day. The fact is, this supplement shot-gunning approach can result in sub-par absorption and utilization of the nutrients, vitamins, minerals or other desirable compound in the nutrition supplement.
So here are the top 6 nutrition supplement mistakes, and how you can avoid them:
Nutrition Supplement Mistake #1: Eating Fiber With Your Fish Oil
Most people take their fish oil supplement in the morning, along with breakfast. The problem is that most breakfast foods are high fiber. And soluble fibers such as pectin, guar gum, and oat bran, and also the insoluble fiber lignin (found in plant cell walls) can affect fat absorption by “wrapping” fatty acids within the digestive tract and decreasing their absorption. Fatty acids and cholesterol that are bound to fiber are less absorbed – and only free fatty acids allow for fat to be transported Mellitox through the walls of the small intestine. Fiber-bound fatty acids will mostly pass into the large intestine.
In other words, by popping your fish oil capsules with a high-fiber morning cereal, you’re basically making expensive fish oil poop. So what should you do? Try taking your fish oil with an afternoon, fat-based snack, such as a handful of olives, almond butter on pita, or avocado with crackers.
Nutrition Supplement Mistake #2: Taking High Dose Antioxidants Regularly
This can be confusing, especially if you’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that all antioxidants are good, but recent research suggests that antioxidant nutrition supplements, such as high dose Vitamin C, may actually impair recovery, increase inflammation, decrease insulin sensitivity, and lead to a lower fitness response to exercise. The basic idea is behind this is that antioxidants protect the body from the damage produced by free radicals, but if you’re always taking high dose antioxidants, your body never learns to generate it’s own antioxidant activity, and thus does not not grow strong free radical buffering capacity on it’s own.
While this is a fairly new topic in sports nutrition, and research is scant, my recommendation is to save any high dose antioxidant supplements for your harder training days (such as long training weekends) when your body probably needs a little extra help. But on recovery days and easy or short training days, hold back on the antioxidants. You probably don’t need them and they may be doing you more harm than good.
Nutrition Supplement Mistake #3: Eating Amino Acids When You’re Trying To Control Appetite
Branched Chain Amino Acids, also known as “BCAA’s”, are in a ton of different during-exercise and post-exercise nutrition supplements. But it is a little known fact that in cancer patients who need to gain weight, BCAA’s are actually used to stimulate appetite and help people to eat more. Obviously, if you’re trying to lose weight or control appetite, eating a handful of BCAA’s in the evening before dinner may not be such a good idea. This is only a worry for a select few folks who are focusing on appetite control and weight loss, but is certainly good to know if you regularly experience food cravings.