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From Macros to Micros

From Macros to Micros

Dialing in nutrients for sports performance

If you’re into fitness, you probably know that what you eat can make a big difference in how well you perform, and more importantly, how well you recover. 

Often athletes start with becoming aware of macronutrients or macros, which are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They are meticulously tracked (usually via an app) to build muscle, decrease body fat, enhance speed, or boost endurance – all important aspects of sports performance. 

Learning what your macro goals are an important first step for athletic success, but sports nutrition doesn’t stop there. There are another group of nutrients that are equally vital for sports performance, and they’re called “micros”. Also known as micronutrients, these are vitamins and minerals that ensure the body functions efficiently during bouts of activity – aiding in energy production, immune function and bone health just to name a few. Some common micros include iron, vitamins C, E, D and calcium. 

Over the past ten years, scientists have reviewed how these micronutrients impact athletic performance. Their findings suggest the best way to get adequate micros is through a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods. Eating fruits and vegetables, proteins and whole grains from unprocessed sources will help you stay healthy and perform your best. Nothing wild, just good old fashioned balanced nutrition. Here are a few micros to keep in mind. 

Potassium helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, which is crucial during intense physical activities where sweating can lead to significant losses. It aids in muscle contraction and nerve function, ensuring that messages from the brain reach the muscles efficiently, thus facilitating precise and powerful movements. Proper potassium levels prevent muscle cramps and spasms, a common issue for athletes during extended training sessions or competitions.

Iron is essential for oxygen transport in the blood, which directly impacts endurance and stamina.

Calcium and vitamin D are critical for bone health, reducing the risk of stress fractures and injuries.

Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E help to combat oxidative stress, which can occur during intense exercise, reducing muscle damage and accelerating recovery.

Vitamin C also plays a role in producing and maintaining collagen which directly impacts the strength and resilience of connective tissues. It also contributes to muscle recovery and repair by providing the necessary framework for new tissue growth. This is especially important for athletes, who frequently experience muscle strain and minor injuries. Ensuring sufficient collagen synthesis through appropriate nutrition can lead to improved performance, quicker recovery times, and reduced injury rates, ultimately enhancing an athlete's overall physical capabilities.

For athletes especially, it’s important to balance the mix of both macros and micros to support overall athletic performance, enhance strength and benefit from the desired endurance and recovery. 

**Note:  In this case, more isn’t better.  Researchers found that adding extra vitamins and minerals via supplements did not provide big performance boost. Supplements may be warranted in very specific cases, for example, if you have a diagnosed nutrient deficiency or if you’re in a severe calorie deficit in which case it’s very important to consult a physician to set a dose. 

Published July 1, 2024

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