Top 10 Sports Nutrition Myths

Christopher D. Jensen, PhD, MPH, RD

Myth #1: The more protein you eat, the more muscle you will gain.

False. Yes, muscle tissue is made up of protein, and athletes do need a bit more protein than non-athletes. However, most athletes already meet their daily requirements for protein intake from the foods they already eat. Extra protein beyond that is just extra calories you don’t necessarily need.

Focus on protein intake around your training and events instead of on the amount you consume each day. Eating protein after your workouts helps to ensure an ample supply of amino acid building blocks the body needs to repair and build muscle tissue. Try consuming 15-25 grams of protein as part of your recovery. As a rule of thumb, try going by the 20/20 rule: take in 20grams of protein within 20 minutes of completing your training.

Myth #2: Vitamin supplements give you energy

False. Taking vitamin supplements won’t help you run faster or jump higher in the short term by giving you energy. Making sure you get enough vitamins and minerals each day is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle, which could in the long term be important for positive performance. A one-a-day type of multivitamin/mineral supplement can be an effective measure.

Myth #3: Drinking fluids during exercise slows you down

False. Excessive loss of fluid due to sweating is the one of the largest contributors to fatigue during exercise. However, you should be working to find the best fluid intake strategy for you instead of trying to consume as much fluid as possible. Staying hydrated generally requires about 16-24 fl oz every hour of training, preferably in smaller amounts such as 4-8 fl oz every 15 minutes. Experiment with your fluid intake to determine what works best for you.

Myth #4: Taking in excess fluids is always good

False. Falloff in performance typically occurs with a loss of 2% or more of body weight as fluid. Try to stay in your hydration zone during exercise. Your hydration zone is typically a body weight somewhere between normal body weight and 2% below that weight.

Taking in excess fluids can put you at risk for hyponatremia, which is when sodium levels in blood are lower than normal.

Myth#5: When your body needs fluids, you’ll feel thirsty

False. Thirst works effectively to keep the body hydrated over the long term, but during exercise, thirst is actually a poor indicator of fluid needs. By the time you feel thirsty, you have probably already lost too much fluid weight. Determine your hydration plan ahead of time and try to stick to that regardless of thirst.

Myth #6: A sports drink is no better than water

False. Water alone is usually fine for short workouts in cooler weather. For longer workouts, ones usually lasting over an hour, a sports drink that provides carbohydrates, fluids, and sodium is a better option. A sports drink is better because it provides the carbs needed to provide you fuel, athletes typically consume more fluids when it’s flavored, carbs help the body absorb the fluid , and sodium helps the body retain the fluid consumed.

Myth #7: Athletes should avoid simple carbohydrates or sugars

False. While complex carbs like whole grains, cereals, and beans are good for us, you should consume simple carbs before, during and after training for quick fueling and recovery.

Myth #8: Carbohydrate loading always improves performance

False. Carbohydrate loading is a fueling strategy designed to maximize an athlete’s muscle glycogen levels before an endurance event. If you’re not training for that high of an intensity, you likely will not reap the benefits of carb loading. Carb loading will be most helpful in situations where typical glycogen reserves would otherwise be depleted.

Myth #9: Pasta the night before an endurance event constitutes carbohydrate loading

False. Carb loading usually requires a combination of tapering exercise while increasing carbohydrate consumption, and it’s usually done over a period of a couple days. A single high-carbohydrate meal the night before a race is not going to have the same effects.

Myth#10: It doesn’t matter what you eat before exercise

False. What and how much you eat before training does matter for your performance and depends on the intensity and duration of your training. The goals of eating before training are to stave off hunger, top off glycogen fuel stores, and leave you feeling comfortable. These goals are best met with a carb-based, moderate in protein, and low levels of slow-to-digest fat and fiber meal about 2-4 hours before training. Test your intake and timing to determine the best strategy for you.

About The Author

Dr. Jensen manages health-related research studies at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Northern California. He is also a sports nutrition writer and has years of experience in the design and testing of sports nutrition products. Dr. Jensen is a recreational runner and former basketball player.

Fun Fact: Chris loves running on the beach and playing the drums.

Information presented by PowerBar is intended to impart general sports nutrition and training information. PowerBar is not engaged in rendering medical advice or services. Be sure to consult your doctor as needed, including when undertaking a new diet or training program. Advance consultation with your doctor is particularly important if you are under eighteen (18), pregnant, breastfeeding, or have health problems. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on PowerBar’s site.