It’s been a whirlwind of a sporting month, with the country torn between watching the football or the tennis! As I write this, Andy Murray has triumphed over Milos Raonic to become Wimbledon champion for the second time, and Portugal have just become European football champions for the very first time.
As a confirmed nutrition geek, as well as enjoying the match or game, I find myself considering how I would support athletes like Andy Murray and Cristiano Ronaldo from a nutritional perspective.
Here’s what I would recommend:
Andy Murray - Walking onto centre court for the Wimbledon men’s singles final with the weight of the whole country resting on your shoulders takes some serious mental preparation! For Andy Murray, nutritional support for concentration and mental focus would be key:
• Magnesium – Perhaps the most important nutrient of all for athletes is magnesium. It has vital roles to play in muscle function and energy production, and also helps to balance out the stress response. It’s also one that’s often missing from Western diets. Magnesium is a calming nutrient and can help when you need to perform under pressure. Large doses of magnesium can cause gastrointestinal upset which is the last thing you need during one of the biggest matches of your life, so it’s best supplemented in the GI friendly form of magnesium bisglycinate which is well tolerated and easily absorbed.
• Vitamin C – Humans can neither manufacture nor store vitamin C so it needs to be supplied by the diet on a daily basis. Vitamin C is used up rapidly during stressful periods so it’s important to add in a bit extra at these times. Without adequate vitamin C, the body will struggle to deal with stress effectively and will be more vulnerable to illness and infection.
• Omega 3s (EPA & DHA) – The brain is made up of 60% fat and much of these are omega 3 fats, which must be supplied by the diet on a regular basis. These brain-boosting fats are crucial for mental focus and concentration, and so are essential for match preparation. Omega 3s have also been linked to a variety of possible athletic performance benefits such as increased muscle growth, improved strength and physical performance, reduced exercise-induced muscle damage and delayed onset muscle soreness, fewer negative immune effects of intensive training, strengthened bones and improved heart and lung functioning. The best way to ensure optimal intake is with a daily supplement of omega 3-rich fish oil.
• Coenzyme Q10 – The brain is the most energy hungry organ in the body. CoQ10 is an essential vitamin-like nutrient that is crucial for energy production in the mitochondria. Our bodies make CoQ10 but often not in quantities high enough to support intense energy demands. Supplementation may be helpful at these times to provide an additional boost.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Anyone watching the Euro 2016 final could see the devastating impact of injury on both a player and a team at such a high level. For Cristiano Ronaldo, nutrition to support injury recovery and prevention is now a key focus. It’s important that he gets back on the pitch as quickly as possible and takes steps to make sure this injury doesn’t come back to haunt him in future games. Early suggestions are that he’s suffering from a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL). Initial treatment centres on reducing pain and inflammation. Once the pain and swelling subside, treatment protocol moves towards connective tissue rebuilding and repair. Nutrition can offer support at both of these stages:
1) Reduce pain and inflammation
• Turmeric, rosemary & ginger combine to provide a powerful natural support for the body’s anti-inflammatory processes.
• Omega 3s – Key omega 3s EPA & DHA act as powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients in the body. Supplementation with a high quality omega 3-rich fish oil is the best way to support increased intake and harness anti-inflammatory benefits at this stage.
• Antioxidants – The inflammatory process produces high levels of free radicals, which can quickly start to cause tissue damage so it’s important to supply the body with enough nutrients to deal with these. Antioxidants form a natural defence against free radicals. Key antioxidant nutrients include vitamins A, C & E and phytonutrients such as quercetin, rutin and limonene. N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is a powerful antioxidant, which helps to increase levels of glutathione – the body’s master antioxidant.
2) Connective tissue rebuilding & repair
• Vitamin C is an important nutrient needed for the formation of collagen – the protein that forms connective tissue. Without extra vitamin C added into the diet following injury, the formation of new connective tissue between cells is hindered, slowing down wound healing.
• MSM (Methyl Sulphonyl Methane) is an organic sulphur required for the formation of connective tissue
• Protein (amino acids) – An injury to the body automatically increases demand for protein, as it is required in multiple processes that take place as soon as the injury happens and throughout the recovery time. Connective tissue is made up of protein and amino acids are the raw ingredients that combine together to make protein, so it’s crucial to provide the body with extra supplies during this time.
• Zinc – This essential mineral helps the body to use the fats and proteins consumed to promote growth and healing of the injured tissue.
• Horsetail – A natural beneficial substance for the health and healing of connective tissue.