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Sports Nutrition Products

Food First Approach

Athletes should take a "food first" approach to supply their nutrition and energy needs throughout the day. Sports nutrition products such as sports drinks, bars and gels have been designed to supplement an athlete's nutritional program before, during and after athletic activity and not be a replacement or substitute for real food.

Product Choices

There are many sports nutrition products on the market, and it can be difficult to make good nutrition choices to meet an athlete's physical development, training and performance goals. Below is a description of the three main sports nutrition products:

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are flavored beverages that contain mostly carbohydrate and electrolytes and are typically consumed before, during and after training sessions. Sports drinks will help maintain hydration and carbohydrate replacement for optimal performance before, during and after training.

Energy Bars

Energy bars are designed to provide athletes a compact source of calories, carbohydrate and protein before, during or after training sessions. Although the size and composition of these energy bars varies, it is typically best to consume one that contains 30-100 grams of carbohydrate and 6-20 grams of protein.

Energy Gels

Energy gels are semi-solid forms of mostly carbohydrate that help to maintain blood sugar levels during training and competition. Most energy gels will contain at least 20 grams of carbohydrates, and some contain vitamins and minerals. If used during exercise, athletes should consume 1-2 gels per hour with 4-8 ounces of water.

Because the sports nutrition product industry is not subject to strict government regulations, some products may be mislabeled, or may be contaminated with banned substances or additives that are not listed as an ingredient on the label. The only sports nutrition products that athletes can use without the risk of contamination are those products that have been certified under the NSF Certified for Sport program. A current list of NSF Certified for Sport products is available at: www.NSFsport.com.

Athletes should consult with a qualified sport dietitian for more information about choosing products and developing a nutrition protocol.

Courtesy of the United States Olympic Committee and Major League Baseball