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13 Supplements Female Athletes Need Now

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  • Are you confused by all the claims, hype and advertising that bombard you about supplements for better health and performance? Do you feel that only men, super athletes and body builders need to supplement their diet to get results? Think again! Let's talk about the importance of sport's supplementation and the specific benefits of the supplements that I recommend. As science is evolving, and we are learning more and more about the body, we are finding out that there are indeed specific nutrients and compounds that we can add to our food intake that will truly make a difference, not just in our overall health, but also in our performance, recovery, strength and body composition.

    I say that supplements are an integral part of "smart" eating. It is indeed possible to get most of your nutrients from your daily consumption of food, however, when dieting or eliminating certain foods, or if you are looking to gain advantage in your sport, some nutrients are more commonly missing and need to be added for optimal health, performance and fat burning.

    Almost everyone should consider supplementation. A multivitamin is a good way to fill nutritional deficiencies. From children, young adults, adults and the elderly; everyone can benefit. Pregnant women have special dietary needs and should also look at supplementation for their own as well as their developing baby's needs. For the athlete there are also specific considerations and benefits.

    When deciding which supplements to buy, there are a few things to consider.
    · Variety: Your supplements should encompass a wide variety of important vitamins and minerals as well as some antioxidants.
    · Potency: Verify that the supplement contains the right amount of each nutrient to meet your daily requirements.
    · Purity: A high quality supplement should be free of fillers, preservatives, allergens, artificial color and flavors.


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    Let's go over the most important supplements:

    Vitamin C is an antioxidant power house. You should consider taking at least 1,000 mg of Vitamin C to protect your  immune system. The dose can be divided and taken at breakfast, lunch and dinner. You may take up to 3 g per day. Although best known for its ability to increase immunity, Vitamin C helps detoxify our bodies, promotes healing of all of our cells, and allows us to better deal with stress. It also supports the good bacteria in our gut, destroys detrimental bacteria and viruses, neutralizes harmful free radicals, removes heavy metals, and protects us from pollution.

    Vitamin C also assists in wound healing, and has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing the stiffness of arteries. Vitamin C lowers the risk of stroke and delays the signs of skin aging. As Vitamin C is water soluble, you will not run the risk of having it stored in your body. You may experience loose bowels if you overdo the dosage, so start slowly and increase your dosage gradually. Vitamin C is excellent at the onset of a cold, especially when taken together with Zinc.

    Protein should be supplemented for many reasons. It will allow you to increase your lean muscle mass and simultaneously increase your fat burning. Your body needs a steady supply of amino acids (the building blocks of protein). To preserve the lean mass that you already have, you may consume 0.5g of protein per pound of body weight per day. So for example, if you weigh 130 lbs, you need to consume about 75 grams of protein in a day. This protein comes from your food as well as from supplements if needed. If you are a very active athlete or if you are trying to increase your lean mass, the need for protein increases.

    For muscle gain, I recommend at least 0.8 -1.0g per pound of body weight. Protein is necessary for the production of enzymes and hormones and vital in maintaining or building muscle. Eat protein throughout the day at each meal. As a supplement, you should look for a low carbohydrate, high quality protein powder made by a reputable company. As some protein powders and supplements cause bloating and gas, you may want to up your intake gradually, and increase your water consumption.

    Protein Supplements include:
    · Whey
    · Casein
    · Milk
    · Egg
    · Soy
    · Pea
    · Rice
    · Hemp

    The most widely used protein is Hydrolyzed Whey. Hydrolyzed means it has been broken down into a more easily digestible form for your body to be able to utilize it. Casein is a slower burning protein powder and is very beneficial at night, as you enter your sleep cycle, and will be fasting. Providing your body with a slow burning form of protein at night is a good way to assure a steady supply of amino acids to your muscles. If you are allergic to dairy or are vegan, you can try the soy, pea, rice or hemp protein powders. These  also deliver great benefits to your body.

    Vitamin D is naturally created in the body by exposure to sunlight. Today, many people avoid the harmful rays of the sun to prevent  skin disease and aging. This is one reason that it is important to supplement  with Vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to protect against cancer and increase bone density by aiding in the absorption of Calcium. It is also associated with greater muscle strength because it interacts with muscle receptors that activate genes for muscle growth and strength. Vitamin D also regulates blood pressure, reduces stress and tension, relieves body aches and pains by reducing muscle spasms, reduces respiratory infections, helps in differentiation of the cells, aids in insulin secretion, helps fight depression, improves overall skin health by reducing wrinkles, makes skin soft, strong, and smooth, and improves cardiovascular strength by providing a protective lining for the blood vessels. Vitamin D is also associated with fat loss. Aim for 600 IU's daily.

    Most people know that Calcium and Magnesium are vital for bone health. These two also help fight cramps and help you sleep well. They are also needed to help regulate your heartbeat and  muscle and nerve functions. Calcium deficiencies can increase the risk of high blood pressure, which in turn puts undue stress on the heart. Increased Calcium can be useful for those that have already experienced heart related illnesses. Magnesium works to relax the walls of the lungs when constricted, such as in the case of an asthma attack, allowing for easier breathing. Shortness of breath and wheezing can also be reduced through the use of Magnesium. It works to help normalize breathing, allowing for oxygen to be taken in the body properly.

    Magnesium also works to ease pain. It relaxes constricting or cramping muscles. Calcium and Magnesium work synergistically as Calcium can only be absorbed when taken together with Magnesium. Additionally, if you are active or an athlete and you sweat a lot, chances are you need to replenish your Magnesium, as it is secreted when you sweat.  To prevent cramping and muscle fatigue, add this valuable mineral to your daily supplement list.

    Calcium is absorbed slowly, so you should only take 500 mg at a time. You should aim to get at least 1,500 mg of Calcium and 750 mg of Magnesium per day.

    Interested in fat loss? Try L- Carnitine, which is a non-essential amino acid. It is created when lysine and methionine encounter iron, niacin and Vitamin B6 in the liver or kidneys. L- Carnitine helps transport fat to the working muscle to use for energy. So, you are using stored fat for energy rather than just the glucose that is in your blood stream. L- Carnitine increases energy, is used for fat burning, promotes growth and development and improves resistance to muscle fatigue. Other benefits of L- Carnitine include decreased risk of heart attack, increased bone density in post menopausal women and decreased infertility in men. The best way to take L- Carnitine may be in liquid form. You should aim for 1-2 grams per day distributed as one serving in the morning and one mid -day. Start with 1 g per day and gradually increase your dose.

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    Co-Q 10's primary function in cells is to generate energy. The highest concentration of Co-Q 10 is found on the inner membrane of the mitochondrion in the muscle cell. It resides in the energy-producing part of cells and is involved with producing a key molecule known as adenosine-5-triphosphate (or ATP). ATP is a cell's major energy source and it contributes to several important biological processes, such as the production of protein, and muscle contraction. Co-Q 10 can help you combat fatigue, obesity and a weak immune system. Co-Q 10 also protects the heart, and plays a major role in preventing heart disease.

    How can it do all this? Researchers think it may all be possible on account of Co-Q 10's ability to inhibit blood clot formation, improve energy production in cells, and act as a super antioxidant. There are two forms of Coenzyme Q-10: Ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinone is the oxidized form of Co-Q 10 and is the more common form of commercially available Co-Q 10. Ubiquinol, the reduced form of Co-Q 10, is relatively new and more expensive to produce. This form of Co-Q 10 is the antioxidant form which neutralizes free radicals and decreases cellular damage. Ubiquinone does not have this antioxidant effect. The body does convert Ubiquinone into ubiquinol, but there is an extra step involved, and not all of the ingested Ubiquinone gets converted into Ubiquinol. In healthy people, over 90% of the CoQ10 in the blood is in the form of Ubiquinol, but as you get older, both the total level of Coenzyme Q10 and the body's ability to turn it into Ubiquinol decline. So, the most effective way to get your CoQ-10 is to get the Ubiquinol. Take as directed.

    BCAA's (Branch Chain Amino Acids).The amino acids Leucine, Valine and Isoleucine make up the BCAA's. These amino acids do not require digestion and go straight into the blood stream for immediate uptake by the muscle cell. They help maintain adequate fuel for the working muscle, prevent fatigue and assist the immune system. BCAA's should especially be taken by people who strength train, in conjunction with protein powder. BCAA's have also been shown to assist in visceral fat loss. Visceral fat is located in the deepest layers, under the subcutaneous fat and is the most resistant to dieting. I highly recommend BCAA's to all my athletes for all the health benefits.

    Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the muscle. It plays a very important role in the digestive and immune functions. Glutamine has been shown to improve protein synthesis and immune function, enhance recovery, and reduce catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissues.) Glutamine helps create the antioxidant glutathione and acts as a free radical scavenger. Glutamine is depleted during intense exercise. This can cause increased muscular soreness and poor recovery. Glutamine also helps the brain, aids in digestion and rids the body of excess ammonia. You should take 10-12 g daily. Divide this dose in two and take Glutamine 1-2 hours before training and AGAIN in the evening before bed time.

    Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are popular among vegans and vegetarians who want a non-animal source of Omega-3 fatty acids. However, everyone can benefit from adding flaxseeds to their diet. While flaxseed oil contains higher levels of Omega-3 than the seeds, the seeds actually have many more benefits than just the oil. Here are some of the health benefits of flaxseeds and flaxseed oil: Ground flaxseed has been shown to work just as well as "statins", (pharmaceuticals) in lowering cholesterol. Flaxseeds are a good source of magnesium. Flaxseeds also contain high levels of lignans. Lignans may protect against estrogen-dependent cancers, such as breast cancer. Flaxseeds have been shown to protect post-menopausal women from heart disease and to regulate estrogen levels. In addition to all those health benefits, flaxseed decreases insulin resistance and may also protect against diabetes.

    I recommend 1 tablespoon of flax seeds per day. Flax seeds are high in alpha linolenic acids or ALA which is an Omega 3 fat. Flax seeds are also high in fiber. This wonderful, nutty flavored supplement can be added to shakes, oatmeal, in your yogurt and other foods. It protect against cancers and cardiovascular disease and increases digestive functions.

    Omega 3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids, meaning that they cannot be synthesized by the human body but are vital for normal metabolism. Most people know that Omega-3 fats protect against heart disease and also protect brain function. But you may not know that Omega-3s' have strong anti inflammatory properties and even enhance vision and protects against macular degeneration by up to 38 percent as we age. The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, primarily EPA and DHA are the best known for their protection against cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that a daily dose of fish oil substantially decreases the risk of sudden death in heart-attack survivors. Fish oil helps prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, and may even stave off Alzheimer's disease. The importance of all the health benefits of Omega 3's cannot be overstated. For athletes, healthy fats are essential in aiding in the utilization of stored fatty acids in the body and the anti-inflammatory properties are also invaluable to all athletes, since exercise will cause inflammation.

    In addition, fish oil, which contains two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (EPA and DHA), has been shown to reduce the inflammation that is a predictor of heart disease. Too much inflammation may cause plaque that is present in the arteries to rupture, leading to a blood clot that could cause a heart attack or stroke. To prevent cardiovascular disease and minimize dangerous levels of inflammation in the body, the one supplement that all adult men and women should be taking is fish oil. Omega 3 fish oils should taken at breakfast, lunch and dinner or as directed on label.

    Rhodiola Rosea is an adaptogen meaning it enables the body to better handle stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Rhodiola is excellent in today's fast paced, high stressed world that puts so many demands on our adrenal and nervous system. When your adrenal glands work overtime in response to stress, they may eventually become depleted. This will cause metabolic and other discrepancies in the energy pathways. Rhodiola has been shown to stabilize the adrenals, thereby increasing energy, balancing adrenal output, fighting fatigue and possessing both antioxidant and anticancer benefits. This super herb also protects memory and brain function.

    Research also points to Rhodiola's ability to fuel sexual energy, boost immunity, and ease depression. I personally take Rhodiola every day. The recommended dosage is 200 to 600 mg daily for the treatment of fatigue and depression. Rhodiola is best taken on an empty stomach, early in the day, as it may interfere with sleep. It should not be used by individuals with bipolar disorder or those taking hypertensive or hypoglycemic medications.  I give Rhodiola to all my athletes, as it increases their energy levels and endurance without artificial stimulants or caffeine and sugar. If you need energy and endurance, you will love Rhodiola.

    There are many other beneficial supplements that you can take to enhance your health, body composition, stamina, energy and recovery. As an athlete, all these things are critical. Ultimately, it comes down to what you need the most. My suggestions are based on what I believe is the most beneficial to most people. Certainly, you are encouraged to do your own research, and to get a more personalized recommendation from a sports nutrition specialist, such as myself, or a medical professional. It is always wise to check with a qualified professional before starting any supplementation, as some supplements have been known to interact with prescription medication.

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