Food for athletes

Vitamins and supplements to face the autumn: an interview with Professor Scotto di Palumbo

Days are shorter and the first sneezes occur. Back to the office and the mood just gets worse. These are all symptoms of the arrival of autumn which, especially for athletes, means a greater stress on the body and a greater exposure to the evils associated with the change of season. Problems which a proper 'seasonal' diet can take care of and, if this is not enough, the use of food supplements. We asked Professor Alessandro Scotto di Palumbo, researcher, university professor and Clinical Specialist of Sixtus Italia for some advice to face the autumn. After the holidays, how important is a proper diet to face going back to town and the change of season? Proper nutrition is a key element for maintaining a healthy state. Hippocrates, a physician of classical Greece, already stated this with the famous phrase ""Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food"". Thus, even with the change of season due to the advent of the cold climate, nutrition can play a very important role, promoting adaptation to the new climatic conditions by reinforcing the natural defences of the immune system. For example, proteins in general are a source of support for our immune system: in particular milk products also combine the presence of enzymes which play a key role, not only in the intestine, but in keeping a state of health in general. Temperatures drop and days get shorter: can some extra expedients help our body to overcome the changes? Certainly, besides what has already been mentioned, a correct intake of micronutrients such as vitamins, which can be taken in large quantities through a high intake of fruit and vegetables, guarantees the body's ability to respond to the new stresses related to the change of season and to going back to work. For athletes we must also consider the increase in stress related to workouts: in these cases it is even more important to employ a proper nutrition, since this can determine the extent of the body's adaptive response to the load imposed by training: in other words, eating well can amplify or suppress the effects of training. For example, the phenomenon of super-training is well known, a condition in which the body loses the ability to respond adequately to training stimuli: in this regard, nutrition can play a key factor. The so-called end-of-season wardrobe change should also be done with food… Absolutely yes. Where the caloric intake is usually reduced during the summer, to the benefit of a considerable intake of water and salts, aimed at balancing the losses induced by perspiration, during the cold season the metabolism accelerates to maintain thermoregulation, vitamin needs increase to cope on the one hand with the increased metabolic processes, on the other, through the immune defence and antioxidant systems, to cope with seasonal stresses. For example, vitamin c is particularly important as, in conditions of high stress, it proves useful in preventing seasonal illnesses. Although this is within reach through the intake of acidic fruit (such as kiwis, oranges, lemons, blueberries, currants), for professional athletes who undergo high daily workloads, this may not be enough and resorting to a supplement may therefore be useful. Would you advise athletes therefore to have a proper diet and possibly to resort to supplements? Using supplements makes sense only and exclusively when there is a real lack of the 'element' which needs to be reintegrated. Should there be this lack, it is a good idea to first question whether this deficiency is induced by incorrect eating habits which should be corrected through a normal diet. On the other hand, however, it is undeniable that there are categories of people, primarily professional athletes, such as cyclists, rowers, swimmers, who undergo such lengthy, intense, and dense workouts that, in my opinion, the use of supplements is essential, in order not to reduce, or even frustrate in some cases, the efforts made during this heavy training. Which are the most suitable Sixtus supplements to tackle autumn? As mentioned previously, the use of supplements should always be assessed on a case-by-case basis and generalising could be inappropriate. However, among our basic supplements, we can certainly mention Multisix, for example, which guarantees a specific set of vitamins and minerals for daily physical exercise, or even Vitamin C which is marketed in a particularly simple and tasty formulation to be taken orally, which is very useful on the one hand to prevent colds and on the other for recovering from oxidative stress induced by the workload. Or, for athletes, it is also worth mentioning Re-Kupera which has a large set of carbohydrates and amino acids, very useful at the end of physical performances in order to recover the stocks of carbohydrates and proteins lost during training, as well as to reduce the inflammatory response induced by exercise. Last but not least, I am very pleased with the forthcoming release of the new probiotic in a formulation for oral use. As said, in fact, probiotics (lactic ferments) are arousing great interest in scientific research too, which has identified that they have a far more important role than was previously thought: they not only prevent gastro-intestinal diseases, but they have been positively connected with preventing numerous chronic diseases. When should supplements be taken? It is important that the supplement should be used when necessary and at the right time. It is important to know the timing and to understand the real need to use a supplement. To be truly useful, it must be taken when the body needs it, as well as being ready to absorb it. For example: taking a protein supplement half an hour after eating a steak is absolutely useless. The organism, in fact, is not able to use proteins for 'muscular' purposes beyond a quantity of 20/30 grams per serving, and between one portion and the other at least a couple of hours must pass. In short, integrators must be taken knowingly, if and when they are needed.

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