Nutrition plays a crucial role in progression and athletic performance. Indeed, nutrition is even known as the fourth discipline of triathlon.
Some general information
First, you should be aware that nutrition is a science in itself. As it is constantly evolving, this makes it a complex topic that requires real knowledge.
Then, it is important to understand that the perfect diet doesn’t exist. Everyone is different, and therefore our needs vary according to many factors: age, gender, metabolism, physical activity (time, type, intensity...), objectives, and so on.
For example, someone training for a triathlon will not have the same needs as someone who is bodybuilding. And two people following the same type of training will not have the same needs either. Thus, you shouldn't strictly follow recommendations, you should also listen and get to know your own body.
Physical activity results in an increased use of energy by the muscles. This energy is provided by our food, which has a major impact on performance, but also on growth, health, and recovery. Nutrition is often referred to as the 4th discipline of triathlon and should not be neglected by any athlete.
The fundamental point is to balance intakes with energy expenditure. Strategies can be developed to try and get the most out of our diet (distribution of nutrients, timing, quantity...).
But what exactly goes on in our body? Muscles transform chemical energy into mechanical energy. This chemical energy is provided by macronutrients. There are 3 types of macronutrients: lipids, carbohydrates and protein. Most of our body's cells are capable of using all these elements to produce energy, except nerve cells and red blood cells that are glucose-dependent. However, all nutrients do not have the same use and the same energy capacity.
Carbohydrates are our body's main source of energy. They are digested and converted into glucose (except for fiber). Glucose is the primary energy molecule for muscles. It is stored in muscle cells and in the liver as glycogen (glucose molecules connected to each other), as well as in blood where its level is regulated by insulin and glucagon. Glucose is also used to fuel the brain and the central nervous system.
Glucose is used by the body at any intensity and can even be used without oxygen (in anaerobic pathways) during a brief and intense effort (10-180 seconds). When the effort is sustained, the body sets up oxidative pathways which use oxygen. They are slower but much more interesting energetically speaking.
Carbohydrates have an advantage over lipids because they release a greater amount of ATP (element that provides energy at the molecular level) by volume of oxygen delivered to the cells. When glycogen stocks become really low, performance is compromised, and the effort cannot be sustained. In the triathlon field, this situation translates into the expression "hitting the wall".
A Näak bar contains 28g of natural unrefined carbohydrates from ingredients such as dates and maple syrup, thus allowing a stable and durable energy supply.
In addition to being a primary energy source for our muscles, fats play many other major roles in the body such as the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (in contrast to water-soluble vitamins), the constitution of cell membranes, the constitution of hormones... It is a very calorie dense nutrient. Lipids are mainly used by the body for long-term, low to medium intensity effort. They can become more easily accessible to the organism through training. They are an extremely important and almost unlimited energy source in our body. Fat represents between 10 and 20% of the total mass of a healthy man and between 18 and 28% for a woman.
There are many forms of lipids, each with different properties. To learn more, take a look at our article about them!
It is worth noting that Näak bars contain high-quality lipids including a lot of omega-3 in an optimal ratio with omega-6. These fatty acids are particularly important for athletes because they slow down inflammation, stimulate the immune system, make lipids more available, and they take part in cell renewal, thus improving recovery.
Protein is not an important energy provider: it represent only 5-10% of the substrate used for energy production during exercise that lasts for at least an hour. It is used by the liver to maintain glucose stores when they become too low. This is a situation to avoid because it requires the breakdown of contractile proteins (muscles). To put it simply, the body digests itself.
Protein mainly has a structural function. It is used by the body to build muscle fiber. Stimulation and muscle stress related to training results in adaptation: the synthesis of muscle cells. This is why protein plays an important role in recovery and thus progression.
To sum it up, it is clear that protein is an essential constituent in an energy bar. Each Näak energy bar has 6g of complete protein from cricket powder.
Athletes should also pay attention to micronutrients, particularly calcium, iron, vitamin D, and antioxidants. Indeed, physical activities use metabolic pathways in which these are necessary. In addition, as the body adapts to the effort, micronutrient requirements increase. However, micronutrients improve performance only if they compensate for those which have been lost.
Iron is one of the constituents of red blood cells. It has an important role in providing muscles with oxygen. Therefore, it is essential to include enough of it in our diet. Iron deficiency causes a decrease in muscle function and limits physical capacity, thus compromising training adaptation, and as a result, global performance.
Iron actually has an important impact on health in general, helping to improve mental and physical performance. This is why iron levels need to be watched more carefully at certain times such as child growth, altitude training, blood loss, and so on.
Calcium has many functions in the human body, playing a role in the growth, maintenance, and repair of bone tissues, muscle contraction, and blood clotting.
Cricket is an important source of calcium, containing more calcium than milk!
The role of vitamin D is to regulate the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. Therefore, it has a role in bone health, and helps muscle functions and athletic performance in general.
Antioxidants are molecules that protect the cells of our body against oxidative stress (tissue oxidation). During exercice, our body produces free radicals which are at the origin of this stress. Antioxidants neutralize their effects. The main antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E, flavonoids, carotenoids, and selenium.
But, in most cases, a suitable diet is enough to cover all these needs and there is no need for supplements.
Water and electrolytes
Finally, it is important to stay properly hydrated throughout the day. Learn more about hydration and electrolytes.
In a nutshell...
In reaction to physical effort, the body develops many metabolic adaptations that help us progress: increased number of molecules that transport nutrients, increased number of enzymes, improved ability to tolerate waste created by the body, optimized use of lipids, increased stocks of muscle glycogen... These adaptations are possible and can be optimized by the management of all the different nutrients mentioned in this article.