Sports Nutrition News You Can Use

Sports Nutrition news these days can be overwhelming and confusing to the common athlete. If you want to fuel right, but aren't a dietician or nutritionist, use this guide to help you apply and implement the most important concepts of sports nutrition and healthy eating.

More than 450 members of SCAN, the nation's largest professional group of Sports and Cardiovascular Nutritionists, convened in Baltimore (April 2012) to celebrate SCAN's 30th birthday and learn the latest sports nutrition news. Here are a few highlights to help you eat to win.

Beets, as well as rhubarb and arugala, are rich sources of dietary nitrates, a compound that gets converted into nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, and allows a person to exercise using less oxygen.

In a study, cyclists consumed pre-ride beets and then three hours later (when NO peaks), they rode in a time trial. Every cyclist improved (on average, 2.8 percent) as compared to the time trial with no beets. Impressive.

More: 10 FAQs on Sports Nutrition

The amount of nitrates in 7 oz. (200 g) beets is an effective dose. How about enjoying  beets—or a bowl of borchst—in your next pre-game meal?

Fuel up while cooling down is a wise mantra for athletes who exercise intensely. Immediate replenishment of carbs and protein can decrease muscle soreness and inflammation, plus enhance muscle repair.

What you eat before you exercise can also effectively reduce post-exercise recovery. In a study, trained athletes consumed two 10.5-oz. bottles per day of tart cherry juice the week before an excruciating exercise test. They recovered faster and lost only 4% of their pre-test strength, compared with 22 percent loss in the group without cherry juice.

More: What to Eat and When for Top Performance

Tart cherries can help not only athletes but also individuals who suffer from the pain and inflammation associated with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Consuming tart cherry juice (two 10.5-ounce bottles/day for 10 days) reduced the muscle soreness associated with "fibro-flares" and enhanced recovery rate. Similar findings occurred in people suffering from osteoarthritis; drinking tart cherry juice for three weeks reduced arthritis pain.  

Tart cherries (the kind used in baking pies, not the sweet cherries enjoyed as snacks) have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Other foods that have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity include raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Fruit smoothies, anyone?!

Research to date has studied the effects of drinking 21 oz. of tart cherry juice per day for one to three weeks. (That's the equivalent of eating 90 tart cherries/day). More research will determine the most effective dose and time-course. Because 21 oz. of tart cherry juice adds 260 calories to one's energy intake, athletes will need to reduce other fruits or foods to make space for this addition to their daily intake.

More: 4 Delicious Recovery Smoothies

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