Food, Beverages and Dietary Supplements Don’t Always Mix With Medications

According to the Food and Drug Administration’s webpage, “Research has shown that 50 percent or more of American adults use dietary supplements on a regular basis… The law defines dietary supplements in part as products taken by mouth that contain a “dietary ingredient” such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs or botanicals, as well as other substances used to supplement the diet.”

Recent research has shown that some foods, beverages and dietary supplements don’t mix well with prescription drugs. Some food and beverages or dietary supplements may interact with prescription drugs affecting the ability of the drug to work as it should or cause unwanted side effects. People who take cholesterol-lowering medications have been cautioned about drinking grapefruit juice while taking the medication. The FDA says: “Grapefruit juice shouldn’t be taken with certain blood pressure-lowering drugs because grapefruit juice can cause higher levels of those medicines in your body and side effects from the medicine could occur.” Grapefruit juice can cause side-effects when used with other medications as well. Extreme cautions exist about drinking alcohol while taking prescription drugs—as it may magnify or decrease the effect of the medication causing unwanted serious side-effects.

A number of cautions exist about consuming foods, such as dairy products, chocolate or coffee (caffeine) when taking certain medications, but less is known about which dietary supplements interact with drugs. According to an article by Judy Hevrdejs in The Chicago Tribune, March 14, “People who take digoxin for their heart may need to steer clear of St. John’s Wort and large amounts of black licorice (that contains glycyrrhizin).” People who take ACE-inhibitors for blood pressure have been warned to go easy on high-potassium containing foods, such as bananas.

“Food and supplement interactions become especially important as the number of drugs taken increases,” Shiew Mei Huang, acting director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Clinical Pharmacology, notes. Many elderly people take more than one medication. A survey she cites published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found in the population surveyed aged 57 and older in the U.S., “at least 80 percent use at least one prescription drug. Half use OTC drugs, and some use dietary supplements.”

Frequently contraindications and cautions are listed on instructions accompanying prescription medications, and they use medical jargon which is often difficult to understand. With dietary supplements, there are fewer cautions or warnings, other than a disclaimer on the label, and they have not been evaluated by the FDA. In addition dietary supplements have not been tested with the same rigor as medicines in the marketplace, according to Professor Hartmut Derendorf, head of the University of Florida, Gainesville’s College of Pharmacy, Pharmaceutics Department. Derendorf encourages people to work with their doctor and pharmacist. Especially when a person begins taking a new medicine while they are taking dietary supplements, it’s always wise to ask their pharmacist and physician if they know of any reason why you should not mix the supplement and the medicine. Derendorf recommends telling them about the use of dietary supplements and looking for specific food interactions that are known for the medication prescribed, as well as keeping a record of all prescription and over-the-counter medications a person takes.

The bottom line is that dietary supplements are largely unregulated and unchecked, so buyers should beware, regardless of potential interactions with food, drink, and/or prescription drugs. And, when adding into the equation food,drink and prescriptions, the resulting cocktail could be hazardous. Do as much research as possible, but always talk to your physician about the supplements you are taking.

Antioxidants Studies

As everyone knows, eating and drinking are necessary for life. Less well known, however, is the fact that the body generates what are called free radicals in the process of turning food into energy. Free radicals are chemicals that are capable of damaging cells and genetic material. But eating is not the only way free radicals spring into being. The food we eat and the sunlight we feel also generate free radicals.

To be sure, free radicals come in many shapes, sizes, and chemical configurations. The characteristic feature of this chemical is that it soaks up electrons from bodily substances that yield them, which can leave the “loser’s” structure or function radically altered. Free radical damage can change the instructions coded in a strand of DNA; it can also make a circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL, sometimes called bad cholesterol) molecule more likely to get trapped in an artery wall. Free radicals also have the potential to alter a cell’s membrane, changing the flow of what enters the cell and what leaves it.

Fortunately, we aren’t defenseless against free radicals. The body puts up natural defenses against free radicals by making molecules that smothers the errant chemicals. We also extract free-radical fighters from food. Often called “antioxidants”, certain kinds of food give electrons to free-radicals without themselves turning into electron-scavenging substances. There are many different substances that can act as antioxidants. The most familiar ones are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other related carotenoids, along with the minerals selenium and manganese. They’re joined by glutathione, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, phytoestrogens, and many more.

However, the term “antioxidant” can be misleading. These substances do not emit chemical properties that fight so much as they emit properties that facilitate. Indeed, some substances that act as antioxidants in one situation may be prooxidants—electron grabbers—in a different chemical milieu. Another big misconception is that antioxidants are interchangeable. This is not true. Each anti-oxidant has unique chemical behaviors and biological properties. It is believed, and has been strongly corroborated through scientific study, that anti-oxidants evolved as parts of elaborate networks, each substance having a different role to play. It follows that no single substance can fulfill the function of every other substance.

Health Benefits of Antioxidants: What’s the Buzz?

Antioxidants came to public attention in the 1990s. It was then that scientists began to understand that free radical damage was involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis, and that the chemicals may contribute to cancer, vision loss, and a host of other chronic conditions. A number of studies stated that people with low intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables were at greater risk for developing these chronic conditions than were people who ate sufficient amounts fruits and vegetables. Clinical trials tested the impact of single substances, especially beta-carotene and vitamin E, on cancer, heart disease, and similar maladies. But even before the results of these trials were in, the media, and the dietary supplement and food industries began promoting the benefits of “antioxidants.” Foods such as frozen berries and green tea were hyped as being rich in antioxidants. The consequences of this publicity were predictable: certain foods were labeled as rich in antioxidants and were marketed as such in stores; the makers of dietary supplements began touting the disease-fighting properties of all sorts of antioxidants.

In the meantime, the results of the actual trials were mixed. Most have not found the hoped-for benefits. And research teams reported that vitamin E and other antioxidant supplements didn’t protect against heart disease or cancer. One study even showed that taking beta-carotene may actually increase the chances of developing lung cancer in smokers. However, some of the trials reported benefits. One such study found that taking beta-carotene is associated with a modest reduction in the rate of cognitive decline.

The rather most, if not downright disappointing, results of the antioxidant trials have not stopped the commercial interests from misrepresenting the benefits of antioxidants in order to make money. Antioxidant supplements are a $500 million dollar industry that continues to grow. Antioxidants are still added to breakfast cereals, sports bars, energy drinks, and other processed foods, and they are promoted as additives that can prevent heart disease, cancer, cataracts, memory loss, and a host of other conditions. The claims made by the food and dietary supplement industries often distort the data. It is true that the package of antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and other substances found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help prevent a variety of chronic diseases; but there is no solid evidence that high doses of antioxidants can accomplish the same feat. The conclusion is clear: randomized, placebo-controlled trials—which, when performed well, provide the strongest evidence—offer little support that taking vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, or other single antioxidants provides substantial protection against heart disease, cancer, or other chronic conditions. The results of the largest such trials have been mostly negative.

Heart Disease and Antioxidants

Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other so-called antioxidants are not a panacea for heart disease and should not be promoted as such. In the Women’s Health Study, 39,876 initially healthy women took 600 IU of natural source vitamin E or a placebo every other day for 10 years. The results of the study showed that the rates of major cardiovascular events and cancer were no lower among those taking vitamin E than they were among those taking the placebo; however, a 24 percent reduction in total cardiovascular mortality was observed, which can be considered a quite significant result.

Earlier large vitamin E trials, conducted among individuals with previously diagnosed coronary disease or at high risk for it, generally showed no benefit. In the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) trial, the rates of major cardiovascular events were essentially the same in the vitamin E (21.5 percent) and placebo (20.6 percent) groups, although participants taking vitamin E had higher risks of heart failure and hospitalization for heart failure. (3) Another trial, the Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto Miocardico (GISSI), showed mixed results; there were no preventive effects after more than three years of treatment with vitamin E among 11,000 heart attack survivors. Nevertheless, some studies suggest potential benefits among certain subgroups. A recent trial of vitamin E in Israel, for example, showed a marked reduction in coronary heart disease among people with type 2 diabetes who have a common genetic predisposition for greater oxidative stress. In any case, Beta-carotene, as was shown in the Physicians’s Health Study, does not provide any protection against heart disease or stroke.

There have been combinations, but the findings are complicated and unclear. In the Supplementation en Vitamins et Mineraux Antioxydants (SU.VI.MAX) study, 13,017 French men and women took a single daily capsule that contained 120 milligrams of vitamin C, 30 milligrams of vitamin E, 6 milligrams of beta-carotene, 100 micrograms of selenium, and 20 milligrams of zinc, or a placebo, for seven and a half years. The vitamins had no effect on overall rates of cardiovascular disease. In the Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study, vitamin E, vitamin C, and/or beta-carotene had much the same effect as a placebo on myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary revascularization, or cardiovascular death, although there was a modest and significant benefit for vitamin E among women with existing cardiovascular disease.

Cancer and Antioxidants

There is also no conclusive proof that antioxidants help prevent cancer. Scientists need more time to determine the impact of antioxidants on the risk of getting cancer. In the long-term Physicians’ Health Study, cancer rates were similar among men taking beta-carotene and among those taking a placebo. Other trials have also largely showed no effect, including HOPE. The SU.VI.MAX trial showed a reduction in cancer risk and all-cause mortality among men taking an antioxidant cocktail but no apparent effect in women; it is possible that this is a result of the men in the study having low blood levels of beta-carotene at its beginning. A randomized trial of selenium in people with skin cancer demonstrated significant reductions in cancer and cancer mortality at various sites, including colon, lung, and prostate. The effects were strongest among those with low selenium levels at baseline.

Age-Related Eye Disease and Antioxidants

The effects of antioxidants on age-related eye disease may be one of the most hopeful leads scientists have. A six-year trial, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), found that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc provided some protection against the development of advanced age-related macular degeneration in people who were at high risk of the disease. Lutein, a naturally occurring carotenoid found in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, may also protect vision. It is too early to tell what the impact of lutein supplements may be. The trials of such substances have been relatively short, and their ability to slow or prevent age-related macular degeneration has not been ascertained. A new trial of the AREDS supplement regimen plus lutein, zeaxanthin, and fish oil is underway, and it could yield better information.

Potential Hazards of Antioxidants

There have been a few studies which showed that the consumption of antioxidants, as opposed to being beneficial in all instances or at least harmless in fact can interfere with the health of the consumer. The first trial which showed this possible negative effect was undertaken in Finland where heavy smokers were fed beta-carotene. Because of their smoking habits there was a already a lung cancer risk but it was noticed that a significant increase in the incidence of lung cancer amongst the trial group as opposed to the placebo. The trial was stopped so conclusive results are hard to deduce.

A different test which was conducted with heavy smokers exposed to asbestos being fed beta-carotene and vitamin A. This too shows an increase in the incidence of Lung cancer. It must be emphasized that not all trials of Beta-carotene have been negative. A physicians health study which only had a few smokers did not show any significant differences even when followed up after 18 years.

In a separate study showing possible negative effects of a variety of health supplements showed a higher incidence of skin cancer in women being fed supplements of Vitamins C & E, Beta-carotene, selenium and zinc.

Conclusions to be drawn from the above studies, amongst others, is that it is known that although free radicals have been shown to contribute to the incidence of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and even vision loss, there is no automatic conclusion that can be drawn that antioxidants will fix the problem. And certainly not when consumed away from their normal context.

Studies to date do not show conclusive evidence one way or another but there is certainly no strong evidence to suggest that antioxidants are effective against disease. A rider must be mentioned and that is that the trials conducted till now have been short in duration, conducted with people some of whom had an existing disease.

There has been a noticeable benefit to the consumption of beta-carotene on cognitive ability after 18 years. This is exceptional as it is the only study to have continued so long. (Physicians health follow up study) Nevertheless there is abundant evidence suggests that eating whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—all rich in networks of antioxidants and their helper molecules—provides protection against many of these scourges of aging.

Clarification with regard to supplemental studies

There are any number of studies conducted on any number of vitamins and other dietary supplements that are often contradictory. The picture presented to the consumer is confusing and will often seem frustrating in that instead of clarifying things these studies muddy the waters.

Examining exactly what the vitamins trial study did will often go some way to explaining the varying results. Here are a few items to check when looking at apparently conflicting vitamins studies.

  • What was the precise dosage taken by the participants and how long was the study’s duration. This is significant as few studies will have identical dosages and identical time spans. A study in Vitamin D showed that a dosage of 700 plus IU per day had a significant protection against fractures whereas a study of people taking only 400 IU per day showed no such effect. The same applies to the duration as the build up of the protective mechanisms is not a short process.
  • The age, health and life styles of the participants. Studies drawn from young, active gym going participants is likely to differ significantly from heavy drink and smoking office workers. Exercise and other lifestyle choices such as diet affect out health and how the body responds to vitamins.
  • At what stage is was the supplement fed to a study participant. If studying the effect of a supplement on someone already suffering from a disease it may be found that something taken at the onset has a differing effect from something taken when a disease is far advanced. An example being that Folate supplements are only effective against neural tube defects in the early stages of pregnancy.
  • How were the results tabulated and calculated. This is a significant problem as measurement as to benefit may and probably will vary widely. Heart disease is a wide subject and a measurement of coronary thrombosis may miss out on the incidence of strokes.

Where do the vitamins in supplements come from?

Most vitamins are extracted from the food sources in which they naturally occur. For example, vitamin A is often extracted from fish liver oil. Vitamin B comes from yeast or liver, vitamin C from rose hips, and vitamin E from soybeans, wheatgerm or corn.

Supplements are available from many sources but most supplement manufacturers get the raw materials from the same small group of suppliers. They are then packaged and labeled before being sent to distributors or retail outlets.

What types of supplements are available?

There is a vast range of vitamin, mineral and other nutritional supplements available in supermarkets, health food stores and drugstores. Products vary widely in quality and effectiveness, and evidence to support some of the claims made by those who sell them is inconclusive at best.

Most supplement manufacturers follow good manufacturing practices, which ensure that the product contains what it says on the label; that it breaks down to a form which is available for absorption; and does not contain toxic chemicals. If in doubt, it is worth checking with the supplier. Good quality supplements are available from medical practitioners, health food stores, drugstores and supermarkets. Many experts recommend buying name brands, such as USANA Vitamins, or own brand supplements from large national stores with a reputation for quality.

Vitamin and mineral supplements come in various forms. The most common are tablets which are convenient to store and carry and have the longest shelf life. Capsules are also easy to store, but may not be as good at protecting the contents from oxidation. Enteric-coated capsules, which are also known as timed release supplements, are another form. They are designed to pass through the stomach to dissolve in the intestine. Fat soluble vitamins and other oil supplements often come in the form of gelatin capsules. Powder forms do not contain fillers, binders or additives. Liquids are suitable for people who have difficulty swallowing capsules.

Vitamin supplements contain many other substances such as fillers, binders, lubricants, disintegrators, colors, flavors and sweeteners, coating materials and drying agents. A person who is prone to allergies should check the ingredients of a particular type of supplement.

When buying supplements, it is helpful to have a clear idea of what nutrients are necessary, and in what amounts. This should be based on dietary strengths and weaknesses and particular needs. Reading the labels carefully should provide enough information to match the product with a person’s individual needs.

Supplement labeling

The US government has recently announced new rules on the labeling of dietary supplements. The new rules are designed to give consumers more complete information regarding the ingredients in dietary supplements. They apply to vitamins, minerals, herbs and amino acids. The rules require the products to be labeled as dietary supplements and to carry a ‘Supplement Facts’ panel that lists how much of the RDI of nutrients are in the product. For ingredients that have no RDI, such as herbs, the package will list the ingredients. Herbal products must identify the part of the plant used to make the substance.

Supplements could only claim to be ‘high potency’ if a nutrient is present at 100 per cent or more of the RDI. For multivitamin supplements to carry the ‘high potency’ labeling, at least two-thirds of the nutrients must be present at levels that are more than 100 per cent of the RDI.

The term, antioxidant, may be used to describe a nutrient where scientific evidence shows that if it is absorbed in sufficient quantity, the nutrient (such as vitamin C) will inactivate free radicals or prevent free radical-initiated chemical reactions in the body.

The amounts of vitamins and minerals in supplements are indicated in a number of ways:

A milligram (mg) is 1/1000th of a gram (g); there are 1000 mg in a gram.

A microgram (abbreviated mcg or mg) is 1/1000th of a milligram; there are 1,000,000 micrograms in a gram.

The international unit (IU) is an arbitrary measure used for vitamin A (and beta carotene), vitamin D and vitamin E.

Retinol equivalents (RE) are now being used to measure vitamin A (and beta carotene activity) and tocopherol equivalents (TE) to measure vitamin E. This is because vitamins A and E are found in several different forms in the body and these measurement units make it possible to compare the various forms.

USANA Proflavanol C100

Does USANA Proflavanol C100 contain antihistamines?

No USANA products (including Proflavanol C100 and Proflavanol C200) contain antihistamines.

How is Proflavanol C100 different from USANA Proflavanol and Proflavanol 90?

* Grape seed extract dosage has been raised from 30mg per tablet (Proflavanol) and 90mg per tablet (Proflavanol 90) to 100mg per tablet
* Nutritional Hybrid Technology is used to manufacture the Proflavanol C100 tablets.
* Natural grape flavoring has been added to the tablet coating.

What are Proflavanol C100 and Proflavanol C200?

Both Proflavanol C100 and Proflavanol C200 are dietary supplements containing high-quality grape seed extract and vitamin C. The proanthocyanidins (a type of bioflavonoid) in grape seed extract appear to be some of the most powerful free-radical scavengers yet discovered. These proanthocyanidins are available in only extremely small amounts from foods.

Proflavanol supplements can be a key weapon in your antioxidant arsenal. Together with vitamin C, these exclusive formulations provide you with potent free-radical scavengers for superior antioxidant protection.

What are the differences between Proflavanol C100 and Proflavanol C200?

Proflavanol C100 and Proflavanol C200 both provide high-quality grape seed extract and vitamin C.

Each Proflavanol C100 tablet contains 100 mg of grape seed extract and 300 mg of vitamin C.

Proflavanol C200 simply provides a double dose of the grape seed extract contained in Proflavanol C100. Each Proflavanol C200 tablet contains 200 mg of grape seed extract and 300 mg of vitamin C.

Non-Nutrient Substances in Foods

There are a whole range of biologically active substances in foods, especially plant foods and herbal remedies, apart from those accepted as nutrients. Some of these are harmful or affect the availability of nutrients in the diet, but others may have beneficial effects on health. Many of the active substances have been isolated and are now available as dietary supplements; however, their presence, previously unrecognized, is probably the best advertisement there is for eating a varied diet, including plenty of vegetables, pulses, and fruits, s it is quite possible that there are still other substances that remain to be discovered. Much of the evidence for the benefit of such substances ahs come from epidemiological studies, where the prevalence of certain types of disease is related to the consumption of specific foods or food groups within the community. Further scientific study is then needed to identify the particular active component and demonstrate an effect in the body. The following outline the importance of some of the compounds that have been studied more extensively.


Oxidation is an essential process whereby the nutrients we obtain from foods are oxidized in a controlled manner involving the consumption of oxygen. Carried out at a cellular level, oxidation releases energy for metabolism and transformation of nutrients into body tissue and generation of heat. The oxygen is ultimately converted into water and excreted. However, during this process so-called free radicals or reactive oxygen species are formed that, unless mopped up by the body’s antioxidant defences, can damage the tissues, increasing the rate at which they age and potentially contributing to a range of degenerative diseases such as arthritis, immune disorders, cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease, and many others. Antioxidants are substances produced by the body, or consumed in foods, that significantly delay or prevent the oxidation of a particular substrate.

Some vitamins and trace elements in the diet contribute to the body’s antioxidant arsenal. Vitamins A (as beta-carotene), C, and E are known as the antioxidant vitamins, and selenium, copper, manganese, and zinc are components of antioxidant enzymes. In fact the carotenoids, the red-orange pigments in plants, comprise about 600 different substances, of which about 60 are precursors of vitamin A. Many of the non-provitamin carotenoids, including substances such as lycopene, zeaxanthin, and lutein act as antioxidants. Lycopene is the most interesting of these. It is present in tomatoes and, therefore, in food products such as ketchup and sauces. Cooking releases the lycopene and makes it more available, especially in the presence of a small amount of oil or fat. Recent epidemiological studies have suggested that consumption of tomatoes and products containing them is associated with a lower incidence of prostate cancer. Consumption of 10 or more servings per week of foods containing tomatoes, including soup, pizza, and pasta sauces afforded the greatest protection. In addition, non-nutrients such as phytoestrogens, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and polyphenols such as tannins are present in foods and drinks, and may help to prevent oxidation in the plant as well as in human tissues.


Flavonoids are phenolic compounds that are water soluble and occur widely in nature. There are hundreds of different flavonoids found in fruits, vegetables, and beverages such as tea and wine. The particular flavonoids in tea and wine have strong antioxidant effects. Epidemiological studies have suggested that the risk of coronary heart disease is substantially lower in people within populations with the highest flavonoid intake, possibly due to the prevention of oxidation of low-density lipoproteins and reducing blood clotting. The most widely distributed flavonoid in foods is quercitin, followed by kaempferol, but others include myrecitin, catechin, apeginin, and luteolin. In a Dutch study investigating flavonoid intakes, black tea was found to supply more than half the intake, followed by onions and apples.


Phytoestrogens are steroid substances derived from plants, that, it has been suggested, have several potentially beneficial actions in the body. Epidemiological studies suggest that in populations where there is a high intake of phytoestrogens the incidence of certain cancers, especially hormone-sensitive types such as some forms of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men, is lower. One group, known as lignans, are derived from the bacterial digestion of polyphenols, and many oilseeds such as soya bean, rapeseed, and flax are rich sources of the lignans or their precursors. Women in countries with high consumption of soya beans and soya products have been shown to have a lower incidence of breast cancer. This may be related to the phytoestrogen content of the foods as well as to the presence of flavonoids and other phenolic compounds. Soya is also a rich source of another class of phytoestrogens – the isoflavonoids – especially diadzein and genistein.

Phytoestrogens appear to increase the binding of sex hormones to the protein on which they are carried in the blood, thus resulting in lower levels of biologically active free hormone, but they also have other potentially beneficial effects. Some have antioxidant effects that are cancer-preventing, while others appear to reduce the proliferation of cells that respond to oestrogens (such as in the breast and uterus) either by inhibiting enzymes involved in cell proliferation or by competing with oestrogens for binding sites. Food manufacturers are taking the opportunity to make products in which the above potentially beneficial components of foods are concentrated naturally, or are adding tem to other foods. For example, soya, flax, and linseed may be added to breads to increase the phytoestrogen content, with the breads then being advertised as functional foods.

Phytoestrogens are also regarded as active principles in herbal remedies.

Functional Foods

These are foods that appear to have health benefits beyond the provision of nutrients and energy. A symposium on the topic gave the following definition “a food can be said to be functional if it contains a compound, which may or may not be a nutrient, that affects one or a limited number of functions in the body in a targeted way so as to have positive effects on health”. The health benefits may be physiological or may take the form of a positive psychological effect.

Functional foods may be foods that contain the beneficial substance naturally, e.g. fruits and vegetables contain a variety of antioxidant substances that are not strictly nutrients but have beneficial effect: wholegrain cereals contain dietary fiber that may have beneficial effects on gut function and help prevent heart disease: soy beans contain phytoestrogens that may have beneficial effects as described above. However, increasingly food manufacturers are producing foodstuffs with ‘functional” added ingredients that may be of benefit to health. For example, spreads with plant sterols or plant stanols added may help lower cholesterol levels; addition of specific bacteria, called probiotics, to yoghurts and yoghurt drinks, may have beneficial effects within the gut and beyond; and chewing gum containing phosphatidylcholine is claimed to improve memory.

Nutrition Mistakes

Athletes have more at stake than non-athletes when it comes to making decisions about the food they eat. Not only do they need the right kinds of substances for good health, they also need them for good performance. Nevertheless, they make nutritional mistakes.

Kristine Clark, Ph.D., R.D., a sports nutrition expert at Penn State says, “All of their lives, athletes have been told that 55-60 percent of their calories should come from carbohydrates; but what they hear is that 55-60 percent of their calories should come from starchy carbohydrates. We try to make them understand that carbohydrates are found in four of the five food groups. Few athletes think of fruits, vegetables and dairy products as sources of carbohydrates. Consequently, athletes over-consume starches.”

Another misconception is that fat is bad. Some athletes feel almost superior if they survive on a fat-free diet. This practice is counterproductive. Fat is an essential nutrient. If you don’t eat some fat, there is a strong possibility that total calories will be inadequate. When carbohydrates are the only nutrient consumed, there may not be enough calories from carbohydrates left over to make glycogen.

“Athletes worry about other things that they shouldn’t be concerned with,” continues Clark. “One example is red meat, especially among women athletes. Red meat, eaten in appropriate amounts, is a source of protein and other nutrients.”

“Many serious exercisers are pre-occupied with the mistaken need for dietary supplements. While supplements may be appropriate if a person is not getting 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) in certain food groups, I spend too much time answering questions about things like garlic, ginseng, herbs, creatine and protein supplements. In most cases, these substances are simply not necessary for good nutrition or to enhance performance.”

Pre-game and post-game nutrition has always been an issue among athletes. Clark warns them about the mistake of not consuming enough fluids. “Athletes should take in fluids before, during and after strenuous or extended exercise. They should also eat a balanced meal about four hours before competition plus a pre-game snack about an hour before game time.”

“Don’t wait too long after a game to eat,” she concludes. “Take in carbohydrate-rich foods within two hours after intense exercise. It doesn’t matter whether you eat solids or drink liquids. After an exercise period, you can eat almost anything you want. Sports drinks and juices are good for rehydration as well as providing carbohydrates.”

In summary:

Look for carbohydrates in four of the five food groups.
Don’t totally exclude fat from your diet.
Eat red meats in moderate amounts as a source of protein and other nutrients.
Use supplements only if you are not getting 100 percent of the RDA in specific food groups.
Drink fluids before, during and after exercise periods.
Eat a balanced meal about four hours before game time.
Eat high carbohydrate foods within two hours after an event.