Strength Training: Nutrition

Strength training is a component of every athlete's training regimen. Strength training also places additional nutritional demands on the body; the extent of those demands will depend on the intensity and the volume of the strength training program.

Strength training has three essential aspects: the development of maximum strength, the ability to generate the greatest possible force in a single repetition; the building of elastic strength, the ability to direct the muscles to respond quickly and dynamically; and endurance strength, which will involve the promotion of both cardiovascular and muscular endurance.

Proper nutrition, the nourishment of the body through foods and dietary supplements, is essential to general health and well-being. Athletes must pay particular attention to nutrition, given that the body requires a steady, properly proportioned supply of macronutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, as well as numerous micronutrients, substances essential to the function of many human systems, including all vitamins and most of the minerals absorbed into the body. The maintenance of proper fluid levels, dependent on the mineral electrolyte sodium, and the absorption of sufficient calcium and vitamin D for bone maintenance are two examples of areas where a nutritional deficit will have a negative impact on strength training.

Strength training imposes stresses and impacts on the body that must be addressed through careful attention to nutrition. The most fundamental of these impacts is the need for additional energy to participate in the training itself. Whether strength training is the only form of athletic activity undertaken by a person, or when it is supplemental to other sports training, strength training carries with it the need to ensure that the body has sufficient energy to train and to properly recover. Most persons will obtain sufficient energy from a diet that is proportioned as 60-65% carbohydrates, 12-15% proteins, and less than 30% fats.

Protein consumption is another aspect of nutrition that is of particular interest in strength training, as dietary proteins, and their constituent amino acids, are the building blocks of muscle. There are 20 different amino acids, 10 of which are produced within the body, 10 of which must be obtained through diet. These dietary amino acids are also known as the essential amino acids. Unlike carbohydrates, stored as glycogen, and fats, stored as triglycerides, amino acids cannot be stored within the body and must be replenished on a daily basis. Myoblasts, the muscle cells that repair the cellular damage caused by training, are created from amino acids. Conventional sports science wisdom once held that extra protein consumption would speed muscle development; modern science supports the view that while there may be circumstances in the case of an individual athlete to support short-term increases in protein consumption, these are exceptional circumstances; the typical strength training athlete requires only fractionally more than the protein requirements of a healthy non-athlete.

All protein sources do not provide an equal protein value when ingested into the body. The amino acid pattern in an egg is the standard for the measurement of protein quality in all foods. Plant proteins are generally inferior in amino acid quality to dairy, soya, and meat products.

The healthiest and the surest way to ensure that the optimal amount of micronutrients are absorbed into the body is through diet; dietary supplements are a second choice, to be utilized when a dietary source is not available. The exceptions to this rule are with regard to the consumption of sport drinks and creatine supplementation.

Sport drinks are useful to assist a strength training athlete to maintain carbohydrate, sodium, and potassium levels, especially as a recovery tool after a hard workout. Creatine is a supplement that attracted wide ranging attention in the 1990s when notable professional athletes, including baseball homerun hitter Mark McGuire and English sprinter Linford Christie, were adding the substance into their training diets. Creatine is a naturally occurring chemical, found in every cell in the body as creatine phosphate, or phosphocreatine. Creatine is essential to the production of energy through an electrochemical reaction involving the creation and reduction of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Creatine supplementation, when conducted according to manufacturer specification, has been proven to assist athletes in the maintenance of the short-term energy stores essential for the explosive movements in strength training. Excess amounts of creatine are not known to produce any toxic effect on the body, as creatine is processed and excreted through the urine by way of the kidneys. Creatine does not contribute to the building of muscle, as might an anabolic steroid or human growth hormone; creatine supplementation is directed to the production and storage of the fuel the body needs for anaerobic activity such as strength training.

SEE ALSO Diet; Dietary supplements; Free weights; Nutrition; Resistance exercise training; Strength training.