When we are active the brain sends a message to increase the volume of blood containing carbohydrate, oxygen and nutrients to the active muscles. As the blood leaves the active muscles it takes away heat and carbon dioxide. So we need to ensure that, at all times, there is a high volume of blood containing carbohydrate, oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the active muscles so they can perform at their optimum level.
The first problem we face here is that we only have a small amount of stored carbohydrate for our active muscles to access.(The higher the intensity the faster carbohydrate is burnt). The reason our bodies prefer carbohydrate is that it requires the least amount of energy to convert to fuel. Fat and protein require a lot more energy to break down into fuel and also require a lot more blood for this process. At high intensity the body can access carbohydrate stores up to four times faster than fat which is why carbohydrate is used up so quickly.
Given our reliance on carbohydrate for fuel and the fact we only have limited stores we need to ensure that we ingest carbohydrate regularly. When we consume even the simplest food, blood is directed to the stomach to process the food into a fuel the body can access. Blood is taken away from the active muscles for this process which in turn influences how they function. Consequently the ability for the active muscles to perform at a high intensity is reduced.
Shotz Energy Gel is scientifically designed for this very reason. It contains no refined sugar, is high in complex carbohydrate with a smooth liquid/gel consistency that enters the blood stream to quickly fuel the brain and active muscles. When using Shotz Energy Gel as your fuel source you can be sure that the special formulation minimises the amount of blood being drawn away from the active muscles. This means you are able to perform at a higher intensity for a longer period of time.
Fuel for Sport
Carbohydrate is found in the body in two main forms, glycogen and glucose. Glycogen is the source of energy most often used for exercise. It is needed for any short, intense bouts of exercise from sprinting to weight lifting because it is immediately accessible. During activity lasting longer than 60 minutes, glycogen levels begin to diminish and the body relies more heavily on blood glucose to provide the fuel required to keep you going. When glycogen levels are low, the consumption of carbohydrate serves to boost levels of blood glucose to delay the onset of fatigue.
Fat and carbohydrate are the two best sources of energy found in the body. While we have unlimited stores of fat to access for energy, unfortunately fat is not able to support activity above moderate levels due to the amount of time and energy required to turn fat into fuel. Most athletes train at higher intensities than fat can support. Given the lack of our body's preferred energy, carbohydrate ingestion during activity is important not only to provide fuel for the active muscles, but also for the brain.
For athletes Carbohydrate is King! Why?
Fat oxidation (burning) - without carbohydrate fat wouldn't burn as well - sparing protein from being used for energy leaving it to do its main job of building and repairing muscle – providing fuel for the immune system, this is important particular for athletes training every day.
Fuel for the brain
Glucose from carbohydrates is the fuel your brain uses to produce the energy that moves and motivates you. Because neurons cannot store glucose, they depend on the bloodstream to deliver a constant supply of this precious fuel.
Your brain cells need two times the amount of fuel as other cells in the body. As the primary source of energy in the human brain, glucose can be rapidly used up during mental activity.
Sports reliant on skill, decision making and hand/eye co-ordination which require that information be processed quickly rely heavily on brain function. Most often while under pressure you are susceptible to unforced errors and mistakes with the onset of fatigue. These unforced errors or mistakes can be, in most instances, the difference between winning and losing, staying upright or hitting the deck, finishing or DNFing.
Why Shotz and not sugar - A refined sugary snack, soft drink or energy drink that quickly raises your blood sugar level gives you a boost, but it's short-lived. When you eat something with a high refined sugar content your pancreas starts to secrete insulin. Insulin triggers cells throughout your body to pull the excess glucose out of your bloodstream and store it for later use. Soon, the glucose available to your brain has dropped. Neurons, unable to store glucose, experience an energy crisis. Your ability to focus and think suffers.
High refined sugar intake over time - Repeatedly overloading the bloodstream with sugar can diminish the body's ability to respond to insulin, and type 2 diabetes may develop. This is not good for the brain, because diabetes causes a narrowing of the arteries and makes the brain more susceptible to gradual damage. People with diabetes are more vulnerable to depression and are more likely to suffer a decline in mental ability as they age.
The message here is to minimise the amount of refined sugars you consume.
Fuel for the immune system
Besides consuming a well balanced diet, keeping stress to a minimum, not over training, keeping well hydrated and getting plenty of sleep specific nutrition strategies around training can lessen the risk of URTI (upper respiratory tract infections). In other words, during periods of heavy training or after a particularly strenuous workout/competition your immune system may be compromised, putting you at risk of getting sick. Studies show that athletes involved in strenuous activity exhibit an increased risk of infection.
When your immune system is compromised from training, you'll find elevated concentrations of stress hormones in the body. Specific nutritional strategies to boost the immune system around training sessions therefore need to be focused on reducing this stress hormone response to create less disturbance in blood immune cell counts, and lower oxidative activity.
Some of the most important nutritional strategies centre around carbohydrate intake before, during, and after training - a familiar practice for endurance athletes. Training with optimal stores of carbohydrate not only provides fuel for your workouts, but supports a strong immune system. It's known that endurance athletes who train in a carbohydrate-depleted state experience greater increases in their stress hormones. Consuming carbohydrate before, during, and after endurance exercise appears to diminish some of the immunosuppressive effects of intense training, lowers cortisol levels, leads to less changes in blood immune cell counts, lowers oxidative activity, and diminishes inflammatory response.
How the ergogenic effects of caffeine work to improve performance remains a matter of study. There is some talk about caffeine sparing muscle glycogen and being able to access fat stores easier which can delay the onset of fatigue, but this is still yet to be confirmed.
Caffeine works on the adenosine neuromodulatory system in the brain and spinal cord, and this system is heavily involved in pain processing. And since caffeine blocks adenosine from working, it can reduce pain. Basically what caffeine does during activity is numb the sensation of how difficult something is. The perceived perception of the task at hand does not seem as difficult as it would otherwise.
Caffeine will give you the kick you need to get the most out of your body when you‘re feeling tired. Think of the caffeine as fuel for your nerves when you're at the limits of your capacity. It will bring you back from the brink!
Isn't caffeine a diuretic?
The caffeine will not be strong enough to cause a diuresis (stimulate urine production) during exercise, as a hormone called ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) is far more powerful and has the opposing effect on your kidneys.
If you have not tried caffeine in your training give it a shot and see if you benefit from it.
How the body handles heat
Dehydration is a major cause of fatigue, poor performance, decreased coordination and muscle cramping. Proper hydration is extremely important during exercise. Adequate fluid intake for athletes, even recreational athletes, is essential to comfort, performance and safety. Consuming enough fluid to match to your fluid loss is the key to avoiding dehydration. As we all know matching your fluid loss, particularly in the heat, is a lot easier said than done. Having an understanding of how the body handles heat will hopefully drive home the importance of proper hydration strategy during activity so at the very least you can minimise the effects fluid loss has on your performance... and your health!
The human body, being warm blooded, maintains a fairly constant internal temperature, even though it is being exposed to varying environmental temperatures. To keep internal body temperatures within safe limits, the body must get rid of its excess heat, primarily through varying the rate and amount of blood circulation through the skin and the release of fluid onto the skin by the sweat glands.
In the process of lowering internal body temperature;
- the heart begins to pump more blood
- blood vessels expand to accommodate the increased flow
- microscopic blood vessels (capillaries) that thread through the upper layers of the skin begin to fill with blood
- blood circulates closer to the surface of the skin, excess heat is lost to the cooler environment
As environmental temperatures approach normal skin temperature, cooling the body becomes more difficult. If air temperature is as warm as or warmer than the skin, blood brought to the surface cannot lose its heat.
- the heart continues to pump blood to the body surface
- sweat glands pour liquids containing electrolytes onto the surface of the skin
- evaporation of the sweat becomes the principal effective means of maintaining a constant body temperature.
Sweating does not cool the body unless the moisture is removed from the skin by evaporation.
With so much blood going to the external surface of the body, relatively less goes to the active muscles, the brain, and other internal organs; strength declines and fatigue occurs sooner than it would otherwise.
The brain instinctively wants to keep a safe core temperature and does not give too much concern to what activity you are trying to perform. Blood will be drawn away from your active muscles, you will slow down and things become a lot less enjoyable.
Matching your fluid intake to your sweat loss is the key to maintaining performance. This is not as easy as it seems as in most cases your sweat rate will be significantly higher than what your stomach can handle. Generally your stomach can handle between 1 to 1.3 litres per hour during activity. As a rule of thumb, try to consume around 750ml of fluid per hour. If you can consume 1 litre per hour, even better. On hot/humid days if you can handle more, even better.
What type of fluid? As mentioned when we sweat we lose water and electrolytes so that is what we need to replace. Sodium is the most abundant electrolyte lost in sweat and the replacement of this mineral is very important. Sodium is critical to the transportation of carbohydrate to the active muscles and also the contraction and relaxation of those muscles. Drinking water only during activity replaces only one part of what is lost in sweat. Something to think about - if you are taken to hospital with dehydration you are put on a saline drip not a water drip. It makes sense that if a hospital provides this type of fluid to assist in the recovery of dehydration, it makes sense that you would consume a fluid similar to this to avoid dehydration in the first place.
It has been known for a long time that humans consistently dehydrate even when water is freely available. This phenomenon has been termed voluntary dehydration. Research studies have shown that athletes offered a flavoured drink containing mineral salts instead of plain water drank more and became less dehydrated.
Electrolytes are minerals named because of their ability to conduct an electrical charge when in a solution. Referred to as salts within the body, electrolytes play a role in conducting nerve impulses, muscle contractions and are a part of many important physiological functions. Their primary role is maintaining the delicate fluid balance both inside and outside your body's cells. Of the four main electrolytes lost in sweat sodium loss is by far the greatest and therefore requires the most attention in any electrolyte replacement drink.
Of the four electrolytes sodium is the only mineral that is extrcellular, meaning present in the blood stream. Potassium, calcium and magnesium are intracellular, present in the cells or bones. Sodium loss has by far the biggest impact on how your the body functions during activity.
Sodium is an essential nutrient an element the body cannot manufacture itself. It plays a vital role in regulating many bodily functions and is contained in body fluids which transport oxygen, carbohydrate and nutrients. To survive, everyone needs to consume sodium regularly. It is a principal component of a person's internal environment, the extracellular fluid. Nutrients reach your body's cells through these fluids. Sodium facilitates many bodily functions including fluid volume and acid-base balance.
Sodium enables the transmission of nerve impulses around the body. It is an electrolyte, like potassium, calcium and magnesium; it regulates the electrical charges moving in and out of the cells in the body. It controls your taste, smell and tactile processes. The presence of sodium ions is essential for the contraction of muscles, including that largest and most important muscle, the heart. It is fundamental to the operation of signals to and from the brain. Without sufficient sodium, your senses would be dulled and your nerves would not function.
Can I drink too much water? Yes absolutely! Hyponatremia is a medical condition, also known as water intoxication, it can happen when the sodium concentration in the blood becomes too low. When the amount of sodium in fluids outside the cells drops, water moves into the cells to balance these levels. This causes the cells to swell with too much water. Although most cells can handle this swelling, brain cells cannot. Severe hyponatremia can cause the brain to swell and resulting seizures, coma and death can occur. It is most likely to happen in hot and humid conditions with the combination of heavy sweat loss and drinking water only. In extreme conditions hyponatremia can be fatal and while it is rare in athletes it is something worthwhile knowing about.
As already mentioned in ‘how the body handles heat' matching your intake of fluid with your fluid loss is the key to avoiding dehydration and the associated negative effects this has on your performance. The electrolyte composition of sweat contains mainly sodium and while every athlete has different concentrations of sodium in their sweat, even at the lower end losses can add up very quickly.
Keep in mind during hot and or humid conditions sweat rates can range between 1 litre and 2.5 litres an hour. The sodium concentration can vary between individuals at 800mg and 1800mg per litre of sweat. Even at the lower end of sweat rate at 1 litre an hour and sodium concentration of 800mg per litre an athlete can lose 3200mg of sodium over 4 hours of competition. It is worth noting how important sodium is for the contraction and relaxation of muscles, how effectively carbohydrate, oxygen and nutrients are being delivered to the active muscles and brain.
As sodium losses add up, the rate at which your active muscles and brain are being fed slows down and so do you. The message here is, if you are active and you are experiencing sweat loss make sure you are replacing what you are losing – water and electrolytes. Shotz Electrolyte Tablets is the solution.