The British Medical Journal just published an interesting study about sports performance products. They looked at a variety of products that are marketed in the sports performance world. No matter if the product was a supplement, a shoe, a sports drink, or any other item, the scientists checked to see what claims the product made. They then tried to find research that validated the claims. Guess what? In many cases there wasn’t any published research that supported the product claims. Even if research did exist, many times it wasn’t enough to scientifically conclude that the advertised benefits were in fact true. Is this surprising? Probably not. While this study was conducted in Britain, I would guess that similar results would be found in the United States. Several notable American companies (Nike & Powerade) were included in the study because they market and sell in both countries.
In the U.S., the FDA thoroughly evaluates any new drug before it is approved for use. I’m sure that Britain has a similar process in place. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t try to regulate supplements. They only step in if there are numerous complaints and/or health risks (who remembers ephedra????).
Here are a few surprising facts from the study:
Over 50% of all product websites that made product claims did not provide any references for studies that would support these claims
When contacted, some companies were not willing to share their research (In reality, this may not be that surprising)
Once company believed that simply providing a video of their product being used was “sufficient”
So, what is the reality? Just like with many other products, companies tend to make impressive claims about the benefits of using their products. Unfortunately, these claims often aren’t supported by solid research. Regardless, due to marketing to a gullible public, many people don’t question the claims and just buy the products without further investigation. This tends to work out great for the companies who keep putting money in the bank. So what should consumers do? Remember the old P.T. Barnum quote “there’s a sucker born every minute”. Don’t be a sucker!!! Don’t believe everything that some company tells you about it’s newest diet pill, muscle growth powder, sports drink, shoe, shirt, or anything else. Be smart and do some research. While it is great to be able to just hop on the internet and Google something to get info about it, realize that not everything you read on the internet is true either. Make sure to get info from good sources. If you’re not sure where to start, Pubmed publishes abstracts from numerous scientific journals related to health, fitness, exercise, and medicine. Start there and see what you find.
Do you take your time when you shop for food? Do you look at food labels? You should. As we all know, proper nutrition is a key part of the sports performance training plan. Yes, we all know if we go to buy a frozen pizza that it’s probably going to be bad for us. But what about all of the other things we buy? Do you pay attention to those? Some of those might not be as good for you as you think. I know, when we go to the grocery store we’re usually in a hurry. We don’t want to spend any longer than we have to in there, especially if the place is packed with other people. That isn’t my favorite time to be there either. Unfortunately, to be a smart shopper, you need to find a way to spend some time there.
Why is it worth your time? Because you want to be the best. You can never be sure what might be holding you back (or pushing your competition further ahead). Nutrition can very well be the difference maker.
If you are going to improve your nutrition, it starts with some basic steps:
Knowing what you are taking into your body right now
Knowing what your nutritional needs really are
Deciding what adjustments that you need to make
Making wise nutritional choices so that you can make the adjustments
Since I’m not a trained nutritionist, I’ll limit the advice that I try to give in that area. The one thing that I can say is that you should look at food labels carefully. There are so many items that are available for us to eat. However, so many of them are flat out bad for us. As a general rule, you should know why you are eating everything that you put in your mouth (no, “Because I’m hungry” isn’t a good answer). You should never buy something if you don’t check the nutritional info first. Take a little time and look at the info on calories, fat, etc. Compare this info to that on similar products. You might find some surprises. As you can imagine, not all products are created equal.
Nutrition plays a huge role in our athletic success. While looking at the labels closely may not be the most fun thing to do, it can lead to some enlightening discoveries. You might find out that you weren’t doing as well in the nutrition department as you thought. Because of this, the extra time that you spend on your trip to the grocery store may pay huge dividends.
Don't let too much turkey put the brakes on your training
It seems to be an American tradition that on Thanksgiving, we all join our family for good times and food. Lots of food. Generally most of us load our plates too full and eat way too much. Unfortunately, one day of gluttony can throw off your diet and your training. Want a quick tip to help keep your diet and training on track? Exercise before you eat. Research has shown that exercising prior to eating can increase your metabolism, decrease your appetite, and lesson the amount of fat in your blood. Now I’m not suggesting that you disappear on Thanksgiving morning for a 3+ hour workout. Just come up with something that is short and to the point. Keep the intensity level high and get it done fast. That should be enough to gain the benefits without having to miss out on family time.