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Sport Nutrition Products: Where to Start?

 

Choosing an engineered sport nutrition product, or set of products, that will appropriately meet your needs for your sport(s) of choice can be an overwhelming endeavor. Some folks are in the mode of “let’s try everything!!” with no method to the madness. Other folks want to be more systematic in their nutrition trials, and then there are those who just mimic what their training partners use or their coaches tell them to do (without understanding why).

While this topic could nearly comprise a book in length, below are some key considerations for how to more carefully choose which sports nutrition products will provide you adequate fueling.

 Form of Product

Sports nutrition products generally come in the form of solids (such as bars, cookies, etc.), semi-solids (gels, chews, beans, etc.), and liquids (Tailwind, Gatorade, etc.). The intensity and duration of your activity are two important factors that will help you decide what type of product(s) may best be tolerated. Think of a 10-mile trail run at a moderate to a high intensity on difficult terrain compared to an 8-hour leisurely hike. It would be more challenging to consume a dense nutrition bar (from a digestive standpoint) on the hard trail run compared to the longer, lower intensity hike day. There will always be a few “iron tough stomachs” out there, but generally, the higher the heart rate (and associated exercise intensity), the more difficult it is to easily solid foods. In these scenarios, liquids and semi-solids can be better choices.

 Taste

This may be an obvious one, but the flavor (salty, sweet, savory, bitter), mouthfeel, aroma, and consistency of a product can be a major turn off to your taste buds. If you don’t like mushy, sticky foods during your everyday nutrition, you most likely won’t want to eat these kinds of foods midway through a long activity. Of course, you can get an idea of the characteristics of the product simply by the name of the flavor, but you may be surprised once you actually taste the product out on the trails. “Blechhh…This ain’t tasting like key lime pie to me!” Also consider “flavor fatigue” that can set in after long durations… some of us can only take so much chocolate before we are over it.

Practicality

Think about what you are doing and how you want to carry and consume the products. Will you have easy access to refill bottles and mix a new round of your drink? Will your hydration pack or apparel have pockets to carry what you need and easily access it? It’s also important to think about predicted time of day you may opt to consume your products. Will you want a cold sports nutrition drink later at night if it is a bit chilly out? 

Ingredients and Nutritional Profile

Yep, most of us can be consuming “real whole foods” for fueling, but we’re talking about packaged and engineered products in this article. Engineered products are often classified as supplements, so upon reading the ingredient list, you may find yourself scratching your head wondering “what the heck is THAT?!” This is opportunity for learning and doing your homework to be sure you are not risking wasting your money or consuming a product that may give you gastrointestinal distress. Nutritionally, you may be one who needs less sugar or more sugar, desire more satiety from fats and protein than hopping on the sugar roller coaster. Whatever the case may be, take a few seconds to check out the label and get empowered to learn what you are putting in your body to feed the beast.

These are a handful of factors to keep in mind as you examine your inventory of sports nutrition products and go forward in your journey of identifying the products that work best for you. If you hit any stumbling blocks or want to be more expeditious in the process, give The Nutrition Mechanic a shout!

Thanks for reading,

Dina Griffin, MS, RDN, CSSD

The Nutrition Mechanic

Board Certified Sports Dietitian / Registered Dietitian

dina@nutritionmechanic.com

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