- Better understand the crucial nutritional needs of every athlete.
- Learn about the role of enzymes and supplements for every athlete.
- Find out exactly what role enzymes play in athletic performance.
Proper training and nutrition are vital ingredients in the potent formula that ensures excellent athletic performance. There are many different ways to tweak this time-tested formula, depending on the results you want. In terms of nutrition, supplements play an essential role in ensuring optimal athletic performance. And enzyme supplements probably have the most critical role in maximizing the benefits of supplementation.
What are the nutritional needs of an athlete?
A general fitness regimen of 30- to 40-minutes, at least three times a week, typically only requires a balanced diet for an individual to meet their nutritional requirements. A moderate or high-frequency and high-intensity training program for athletes requires higher nutritional intake to meet the higher fuel needs. The increase in nutrition helps athletes achieve their desired physical conditioning and peak performance. Plus, it minimizes and prevents fatigue and injuries.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source. They are broken down by the body into glycogen and stored in the muscles and liver. During exercise, glycogen is converted back into glucose to be used as fuel. Between 40 and 50 percent of the body’s energy requirements are derived from carbohydrates during the early stages of moderate-level exercise. The more intense the workout, the more carbohydrates are utilized for fuel.
Long-duration and high-intensity activities use up a lot of oxygen. So, the most beneficial energy source for an athlete is one that requires the least amount of oxygen per kilocalorie produced. Carbohydrates provide this efficient oxygen-to-kilocalorie ratio. How much carbohydrates an athlete needs to consume ultimately depends on the intensity, duration, and frequency of their workout, together with their sex, body mass, genetics, and total daily energy requirements.
Endurance athletes benefit from a high-carbohydrate pre-competition. In most cases, 70 percent of these diets consist of calories derived from high-quality carbohydrates.
Fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient, supplying 9 kilocalories per gram. Athletes that participate in ultra-endurance events that last between 6 and 10 hours can derive 60-70% of their energy needs from fat. For trained athletes, their body utilizes fat for energy more quickly compared to an average individual. The metabolism of fat for fuel also increases as the exercise’s duration increases and as the intensity decreases.
A minimum of 20 percent of total calorie intake from fat should be maintained by athletes to maintain optimal performance. Fat intake is also essential for the proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Protein has the least contribution to the body’s energy needs. The essential amino acids derived from dietary protein, however, are crucial for muscle building and repair. Athletes have a higher protein requirement per kilogram of body weight to support muscle protein synthesis. Any excess protein is broken down to be used as fuel or stored as fat.
A high-protein diet – that is, one that exceeds an athlete’s protein requirements for muscle support – has not been shown to provide additional muscle-building benefits. It can also be detrimental to the body’s fuel efficiency conversion because protein requires more water and oxygen when it is used for fuel.
Vitamins and Minerals
- B vitamins are essential for fuel production.
- Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption.
- Vitamins C and E help counter the oxidative stress caused by exercise.
- Potassium helps decrease fatigue.
- Iron ensures adequate and efficient oxygenation throughout the body.
- Calcium is critical for bone health.
What kinds of enzymes are beneficial to athletes?
An athlete’s unique nutritional requirements can be derived from an optimized diet, but even the ideal nutritional formula can also benefit from supplementation. For some athletes, particularly females, endurance, and vegetarian or vegan athletes, supplementation of fat, protein, and specific vitamins and minerals is necessary. Alongside supplementation, introducing enzymes to the diet can further maximize the body’s nutrient absorption and significantly boost an athlete’s overall performance.
Athletes seeking to create the “perfect” nutritional formula to raise their performance can benefit from the following enzymes.
- Amylase is the enzyme found in saliva, as well as pancreatic fluid. This enzyme helps break down the starch in food into sugars for energy.
- Lipase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down fats into fatty acids and glycerol. Lipase also aids in digestion by transporting and processing dietary lipids.
- Protease is a proteolytic enzyme that hydrolyzes proteins – breaking them down into amino acids and peptides and, therefore, aiding in their proper digestion.
- Lactase is the enzyme that enables the body to digest dairy products. It breaks down lactose into sugars for fuel use and storage.
- Papain helps break down tough meat fibers, assists with the proper assimilation of protein, and the efficient transport of amino acids to the muscles.
- Bromelain is another proteolytic enzyme that aids in greater protein absorption.
- Glycine Betaine helps prevent osmotic stress, which is typically the result of excessive sweating during exercise – causing high salinity and dehydration.
Enzymes serve as catalysts for the wide array of chemical reactions in the body. For the proper digestion of food and efficient absorption of nutrients, you must have adequate levels of the abovementioned enzymes. The body naturally produces these enzymes, and they can also be derived from food. However, you can only benefit from naturally-occurring enzymes in food if you can eat your food raw or cook your ingredients correctly to maintain nutrient content and bioavailability.
Athletes who take nutritional supplements often also require additional enzyme support. You can ensure that you are maximizing your body’s nutrient absorption by adding enzymes to your diet.
Do enzymes help build muscle?
For muscle building, the correct intake of nutrients before, during, and after training is a big part of the equation. Having the right enzymes to ensure that these nutrients are adequately absorbed by your body exactly when you need them makes the equation complete.
Lack of the necessary enzymes to break down carbohydrates and fat can lead to inadequate fuel, thereby preventing sustained strength. If your body cannot completely break down protein, your muscles will not fully recover, and you will not achieve your desired muscle growth.
More often than not, athletes are more focused on increasing their protein intake, carbohydrates, and fats, without also focusing on increasing nutrient absorption. You can gobble down tons of the macronutrients that are essential to muscle-building, but this does not mean that your body is actually absorbing the higher amounts you need.
Muscle-builders and strength-trainers, in particular, heavily rely on protein supplements, such as whey protein, to achieve greater bulk and strength. But unless they also supplement with enzymes, they will not get the full benefits of their protein powders.
Whey protein contains the highest amounts of essential amino acids, among other kinds of proteins. To get the desired effect of whey protein, it must be hydrolyzed, which just means broken down into smaller molecules. This must take place within 90 minutes of intake, which is the amount of time it takes for whey protein to pass through the stomach and small intestine and converted into the amino acids needed for muscle synthesis.
To ensure this happens, you must choose a whey protein product that also includes protein enzymes or add the right enzyme supplement to your drink. Otherwise, the body will not be able to break down the protein and simply be excreted without providing the desired muscle repair and growth benefits. Improperly or incompletely digested protein also often leads to discomforts, such as bloating, cramping, and nausea.
To get the results you want in terms of bigger muscle mass, you have to ensure that you have adequate levels of the enzymes necessary to utilize the nutrients you derive from both your diet and supplements.
Poor Protein Absorption
The recommended protein intake for athletes is one to two grams per pound of body weight; this amount is usually sufficient for muscle growth. But as already mentioned, consumption and absorption are not always consistent with each other. If you have increased your protein intake from food and supplements, for example, but you haven’t seen any significant muscle growth, it’s more than likely that your muscles are not getting access to and using the amounts of protein they need for repair and growth.
Several factors cause poor absorption of protein; stress is the most common culprit. High levels of stress can directly impact proper digestion and result in poor nutrient absorption. Your body can experience stress from too much caffeine or alcohol, high-starch or high-fat meals, overexertion, and fatigue.
Even if you’re on a high-protein diet and supplementing with protein powders to help you build muscle mass, poor protein absorption means most of the protein you’re consuming is only going to waste instead of towards muscle-building.
Poor Carbohydrate Absorption
Adequate carbohydrate intake is necessary to fuel intense athletic performance. Excessive carbohydrates in the diet, however, are actually counterproductive, as these result in the over-utilization of the enzyme amylase and subsequent deficiency. The excess carbs cause a spike in blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia, which is eventually followed by a crash in energy levels. This formula, needless to say, is not ideal for athletes who need optimal energy levels.
Sustained, high-intensity endurance activities require sufficient glycogen levels. Athletes who load up on carbs to improve their performance must also ensure that their bodies efficiently utilize the glycogen from these carbs as fuel, instead of merely remaining in the blood and causing fatigue.
Optimal nutrition for optimal athletic performance is not just about increasing the intake of essential macronutrients. An athlete must also ensure proper absorption and utilization of these nutrients by introducing enzyme supplements into their diet.
Different enzymes are responsible for the breakdown and absorption of different nutrients. Inadequate levels of these enzymes can lead to poor nutrient utilization and, therefore, poor to less-than-optimal performance during exercise or an athletic event. It is not enough to simply eat what your body needs; you should also help your body maximize the absorption of nutrients from food and diet supplements.
- Carbs and energy fulfillment: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4727532/
- Carbs an athlete needs: https://www.usada.org/athletes/substances/nutrition/carbohydrates-the-master-fuel/
- High-quality carbs: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5794245/
- Fat energy-dense macronutrient: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/energydense-macronutrients-7432.html
- Fat percent for athletes: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/percent-daily-calories-athlete-should-consume-10323.html
- Athletes and protein requirements: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22150425/
- Too much protein for athletes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4913918/
- Enzymes as catalysts: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9921/
- Enzymes for muscle-building: https://www.healthline.com/health/why-are-enzymes-important
- Recommended protein: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/protein-intake-for-optimal-muscle-maintenance.pdf?sfvrsn=688d8896_2
- Carb intake: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566225/
- Carb-loading: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrate-loading/art-20048518