The Care and Feeding of Athletes

I get the calls, just as you do: “Doc, what about taking creatine? Should I?” or “What about the powdered entrails of the Mongolian muskrat? Have you seen the studies?” And on and on. Everyone wants magic. As our baby-boomers (and I am one) reach, what I shall politely call, maturity, many are suddenly becoming “athletes” in their quest to forestall the inevitable effects of that maturity.

It is a good thing, at any age, to take on the task of physical improvement; but what shall we offer our patients in terms of nutritional advice? The retail stores and magazines, the web and endless unsolicited e-mails all promote hundreds of “performance enhancement” products that look good on paper or, at least, the models in the ads certainly look good! It is so easy to fall into a trap and either give imprudent advice or fail to warn our patients.  So, let’s think about this for a moment.

First, principles must be established, if we are to remain clear in our thinking. Ponder this: If anything other than food, air and water were necessary to obtain and maintain human health, you would not be reading this article and there would be no magazine. There would, in fact, be few humans around. We have not, historically, had “super” foods or “super” supplements. Yet, any review of human history shows us that, in general, people of the not too distant past were considerably more robust, more “athletic,” leaner, etc., etc., than the average American today. Review the incredible research of Dr. Weston Price, as recorded in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and you will see the negative physical effects in primitive societies when “modern” food and eating patterns are introduced. Perhaps a “back to basics” or, at least, a “back to traditional diets” plan is a more sane approach. I am bemused when someone asks, “Do you have any papers on that?” as though common sense is inadequate for such a consideration. Price’s book and others who have reached the same conclusion are available for those who wish to pursue.

Then, what shall the athlete eat? I shall offer, without references, without proof other than personal and practice experience (Clinical evidence is abundant and easily found on-line; just “google” it!), but with said common sense, my opinion. Our ancestors made the base of their food-pyramid protein and fat. Oh, I know, there was this one tribe on this one island that ate only popcorn or some such thing, but even if such really did happen, it was not the norm for most of humanity. How interesting to consider that, in the natural food supply, the high protein foods that were so basic were also high in good saturated fats, our only truly efficient source of the fat-soluble vitamins, like A and E and another factor that Dr. Price calls “Factor X,” ostensibly necessary for proper mineralization of bones! Current literature seems to indicate that the higher the protein intake for humans, the better the whole body bone density, contrary to what is commonly believed. How interesting, once again, that the traditional diet so neatly provided all that was needed. There are many books devoted to this by Sears, Eades, Atkins and others available for much more on this topic. Please do read them.

How, then, can I assist the athlete, the wanna-be athlete or the week-end warrior in his/her quest? I shall advise dietary changes appropriate to the individual and I shall recommend a few, fundamental whole-food concentrates to make certain that what a better diet should provide is, in fact, available. I suggest a focus on support for joints, proper muscle function (lactic acid distribution), and cardiovascular function (adequate oxygenation for the increased demand).  Diet, as discussed above, is the critical factor; but changing diets takes time and I must provide the essentials in the most efficient way while that change is taking place.

The number of nutrients (at least the ones we know about) involved in joint function is surprising. It is, essentially, the same as for all connective tissue, like bone. In a 12-hour seminar on nutrition for bones, we cover some 30-plus known factors involved in building and maintaining bones. I give my patients a complex formula that provides food-based nutrients to support ligament and tendon activity. It is derived from what they ought to be eating but probably do not.

Muscle function, indeed all cell function, requires many nutrients for proper production of adenosine triphosphate, and efficient disposal of waste products. A major player in this activity is the “B” family of vitamins. We assume way too much when we think that giving just one or two of the ones we know about is sufficient to replace what is missing from dietary indiscretions. Far better, in my opinion, to use a food-based concentrate that will naturally contain small amounts (just like food) of ALL of the factors our bodies need, not just the very few of which we have knowledge.

Cardiovascular disease is a great concern, especially for us baby-boomers. It is a major killer of our era and is usually a concern of the patient or, perhaps, the very reason he or she is beginning athletic activity. There are several nutrients that are known to assist the heart when under stress. Everyone knows about Coenzyme Q-10, for example. Many want to take hundreds of milligrams of this daily, yet never stop to consider that no human ever had such a thing available. Human consumption has always been in micrograms, not milligrams! Some researchers now point out that the major source of this factor for humans must be biosynthesis, because it is just not found in large quantities in food. It appears to be a complex, 17-step process, requiring at least seven vitamins (vitamin B2—riboflavin, vitamin B3—niacinamide, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and pantothenic acid) and several trace elements. How do I supply all of that? My choice is to provide a food concentrate that contains a variety of the very foods or food extracts that stand the greatest chance of supporting that “17 step process.”

In brief, our emerging athletes need our advice and our sure and certain guidance, as they have diet after diet, magic pill after magic pill, and potion after potion thrown at them from their neighbors, the tabloids, the TV and the web. Start with principles that have stood the test of time. Keep it simple because it IS simple; otherwise we wouldn’t be here.

Dr. Dobbins is one of the most internationally renowned, knowledgeable and respected lecturers in the field of clinical nutrition and herbal therapy. Dr. Dobbins presents 46 weekends per year, while maintaining a thriving private clinical practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. Dobbins can be contacted at [email protected].

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