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How to be a Better Athlete

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

Proper training that maximizes your genetic potential is the key to success in any athletic endeavor, and it is your body's ability to effectively use energy that determines the outcome.

Good nutrition is one of the most important factors that contributes to optimal athletic performance. All athlete's bodies call on a number of processes to fuel there muscles and sustain there endurance.

The Energy Cycle

All human movement is dependent on the use and resynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a high-energy molecule. Because humans have a very limited ability to store ATP, the body must constantly resynthesize this molecule in one of three interrelated ways. The first is known as the phosphagen system is exhausted, your body must rely on either an anaerobic (without oxygen) or an aerobic (with oxygen) process to generate energy.

The anaerobic process, known as glycolysis, involves the cellular breakdown of glucose or glycogen stores in your muscles that release the energy needed. Unfortunately, this anaerobic metabolism of carbohydrates can result in a buildup of lactic acid, which can accumulate in muscles with-in two minutes, causing burning pain and eventually inhibiting muscles from contracting. Therefore, glycolysis is effective only for short bursts of exercise.

Endurance events, such as marathons, require the aerobic metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. THe aerobic system requires at least one to two minutes of intense exercise until an increase in breathing and heart rate ensures the delivery of oxygen to a muscle cell. Until this occurs, the athlete must depend on stored ATP, through the phosphagen process or anaerobic glycolysis, to provide energy.

Together, these three processes work to fuel your body during athletic activity. In the initial stage of a marathon, for example, the marathon runner's energy is derived from stored ATP and the phosphagen and anaerobic systems. When his need for energy exceeded that available from aerobic processes (e.g., a sprint to the finish line), one of the other systems was called upon for assistance.

Nutrition for Maximum Energy

Research reveals that the athletes best strategy for sustained energy is still good nutrition. For example, consuming carbohydrates prior to an event and replenishing them during activity, through a sports drink containing carbohydrates, water and electrolytes has been shown to enhance physical performance. In addition, nutrients such as B vitamins and Carnitine have been show to enhance the generation of energy form carbohydrates and fats. Co-enzyme Q-10 is also considered by some to be the single most essential metabolic component of ATP production because it is fundamental for the production of cellular energy under under aerobic conditions.

Your Automatic Pilot

Fortunately, your body knows how to do all this without conscious effort. How well it produces energy is, however, a function of the fuel (food, nutrients, water) you conserve. You truly become what you eat and think. To get the performance edge, we recommend you eat for performance and take nutritional supplements for that added competitive edge. Next time we will discuss the scientific merits of supplements like CREATINE, to boost your athletic performance.

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