There are many supplements out there on the market and recently joint health supplements became the fourth most popular supplement on the market, with multivitamins being the first. However it all comes down to whether or not they actually work. So let’s take a look at the most popular joint health supplement out there, Glucosamine.
Glucosamine is hands down the most popular joint health supplement and fourth most popular supplement in the world according to sales. Glucosamine is an aminosugar naturally found in the human body and in shellfish (Dahmer S, Schiller RM, 2008). It is present in most body tissues but most prevalent in joints and cartilage (Dahmer S, Schiller RM, 2008). It was initially believed that Glucosamine acted like a substrate or building block to collagen, however research is casting a lot of doubt on this theory (Henrotin Y, et al. 2012).
There are many different forms of glucosamine supplements, the most common being; glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride and N-acetylglucosamine (Patel, K., 2015). Glucosamine keeps the cartilage in joints healthy and the natural levels of Glucosamine in the body begin to drop as people age, which can lead to the deterioration of the joints in use (Patel, K., 2015). Glucosamine is marketed to support the function and structure of joints, initially targeted towards people suffering from osteoarthritis, but is now common for many athletes (Patel, K., 2015), which is surprising when you look at the research.
There are many studies showing benefits of Glucosamine supplementation for people suffering from osteoarthritis, however these findings have not been replicated in the athletic population (Patel, K., 2015). One study looking at Glucosamine supplementation at 1,500-3,00mg per day in bicycle racers showed that the supplement was able to reduce a biomarker for collagen degradation without significantly changing the biomarkers for collagen synthesis or the biomarkers for bone formation and resorption (Momomura R,I et al., 2013). Similar results were found in soccer players using similar research methods (Yoshimura M, et al, 2009). In another study looking at 106 male athletes with acute knee injury using 1,500 mg of Glucosamine compared to a placebo showed no reduction in pain or the size of the injured knee, however there was enhanced knee mobility in the treatment group compared to the placebo group (Ostojic SM, et al, 2007).
So why has Glucosamine received the attention that it has as a means to reduce joint pain in the athletic population? Well one of the reasons why this may be the case is that athletes and people suffering from joint pain without a diagnosis of Osteoarthritis is because they typically take Glucosamine with NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) (Gorsline RT, Kaeding CC, 2005). Common NSAIDs include over the counter painkillers such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen. NSAIDs work on a chemical level by blocking the Cox-1 and Cox-2 enzymes, which play a key role in making Prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are released by damaged tissues, which cause swelling, and they amplify the pain signals coming from nerves. (Feature, R., 2015)
So if you’re suffering from osteoarthritis then glucosamine could help with that joint pain. But if you’re looking to reduce joint pain from physical activity, it’s unlikely that this supplement would do anything for you. But if you’re already taking an NSAID over-the-counter painkiller then you’re likely taking care of the issue already and Glucosamine isn’t likely to help.
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian, PTS
Owner, Founder and President of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management
Dahmer S, Schiller RM Glucosamine . Am Fam Physician. (2008)
Feature, R. (n.d.). NSAIDs for pain relief - WebMD. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
Gorsline RT, Kaeding CC The use of NSAIDs and nutritional supplements in athletes with osteoarthritis: prevalence, benefits, and consequences . Clin Sports Med. (2005)
Henrotin Y, Mobasheri A, Marty M Is there any scientific evidence for the use of glucosamine in the management of human osteoarthritis . Arthritis Res Ther. (2012)
Momomura R, et al Evaluation of the effect of glucosamine administration on biomarkers of cartilage and bone metabolism in bicycle racers . Mol Med Report. (2013)
Ostojic SM, et al Glucosamine administration in athletes: effects on recovery of acute knee injury . Res Sports Med. (2007)
Patel, K. (n.d.). Glucosamine - Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
Yoshimura M, et al Evaluation of the effect of glucosamine administration on biomarkers for cartilage and bone metabolism in soccer players . Int J Mol Med. (2009)
One of the most popular words I hear around the athletic community is “Supplement”. What do you take for a supplement? What brand of whey protein do you use? Are you cycling through creatine? What about those BCAAs? This is most definitely a loaded subject and one that I could write a dissertation about. Today’s focus will be on educating ourselves on protein and skimming the surface on protein powders.
Let’s start by reviewing protein. Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients from which we get energy (aka calories). Protein is made up of building blocks we call amino acids. There are 20 in total, 9 of which are essential meaning we have to get them from external sources (food). Some of protein’s functions include enzyme and hormone production as well as building and repairing muscle, skin, nail and hair.
How much protein do I need daily?
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for protein is 0.8 g/kg of body weight per day for the average adult. There has however been some debate about whether this amount is enough to promote optimal health. Protein is important especially in those looking to increase their physical activity for fitness or sport. Not enough protein and the body will break down protein in the muscle and use it for energy. It’s no surprise that more active individuals would require more protein compared to those who call walking to the bus stop their daily sweat.
Protein requirements will vary greatly depending on many things; what type of athlete you are, your weight, age, exercise intensity, duration, physical preference, and diet quality. Endurance athletes require 1.2-1.4 g/kg of body weight per day where as strength and power athletes require 1.2-1.7g/kg. Some suggestions recommend 1.1 to 1.4 g for recreational athletes. (Fink, 2009)
Is protein supplementation necessary?
The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests high-quality protein from food is enough to repair muscle tissue and improve performance (Campbell, 2007). High quality proteins come from milk, egg, soy, meat and fish. These sources contain all the essential amino acids. Leucine, an essential amino acid, may actually play a very important role in initiating muscle protein synthesis. Leucine-rich proteins include dairy products, beef, poultry, seafood, pork, peanuts, beans, lentils, and soybeans. Some evidence also suggests that 10-20 grams of high quality protein in the early recovery period is enough to maximally stimulate protein synthesis (PEN, 2014). Whey and soy protein for example are high quality proteins. Rice and pea protein however are not complete proteins.
Protein supplements are no more or no less effective than food for building muscle mass when dietary energy intake is adequate (PEN, 2014). Even though that may be the case, I don’t ever rule out protein powder. Of course as a Dietitian I am a big supporter of food through nutrition, but powders can be of benefit for some.
For starters it’s extremely convenient. Here’s a scenario; you finish your workout, socialize with your pals for 10 minutes, commute home, answer some emails, make your meal, and finally start eating 2 hours post exercise. You have already missed the most critical time for refueling. Taking protein powder and having this on your way home with carbohydrates would be of benefit to your recovery.
I might also recommend a supplement for those who don’t have much of an appetite following a workout. By simply not eating any protein you risk protein catabolism; where your body may utilize muscle protein as an energy source when its glycogen stores are depleted. Powders are also an easier and faster way of consuming protein. Making a smoothie with some yogurt and fruit, or munching on a homemade protein bar with dried fruit and whole grains is clearly a much better alternative to not eating, which many of us are guilty of doing when the thought of making a meal is exhausting in itself.
Some of the reasons why I might not support them? As an isolated macronutrient, protein powders lack other nutrients that naturally accompany proteins found in food. Beef has iron. Salmon contains healthy fats. Yogurt has calcium. Protein supplements do not contain these nutrients. When we eat food sources of protein, we often eat them in conjunction with other whole foods that offer vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and heart-healthy fats that are not found in protein supplements.
At the end of the day, taking a protein supplement comes down to lifestyle habits and really what’s most convenient for you. Is it a good source of protein for recovery? Sure. Should you substitute it for a meal? No. If protein powder is what works for you, try to accompany it with food sources that are rich in carbohydrates, electrolytes and fluid for recovery. Now at this point you might be asking yourself “but what kind of supplements would you suggest”? A topic for another time readers…
Emilie Trottier, RD, Sports Dietitian
Fink HH, Burgoon LA, Mikesky AE. Endurance and Ultra-Endurance Athletes: Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2009
Campbell B, Kreider RB, Ziegenfuss T, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4:8
PEN. Sport Nutrition Evidence Summary. The Global Resource for Nutrition Practice. 2014
Gluten-free, Paleo, the China Study, Atkins, Keto and many other diets have plagued the Dietitian and Sport Dietitian community for years. Of course it’s easy for a Sports Dietitian and a Dietitian to be able to spot a fad diet when we see one, that’s what we’re trained to do. We’re trained to be skeptical of the “newest and greatest” thing that will promise a life changing effect just by adding a magical ingredient to your daily intake, or if all of a sudden one macronutrient is the culprit of all your health problems. However it’s the rest of the population that can fall prey to these fad diets which is our ultimate concern because it’s easy to understand why people would be victims of these sacks with the multiple promises and shortcuts of a healthier lifestyle. But to empower everyone out there, we’re going to explore how to spot a fad diet.
Firstly, it must be recognized that there is no unanimous defined answer as to what a fad diet actually is. But Crowe (2014) reports that if a diet has any of the following claims that it is likely a fad diet:
· Promises of fast results
· Cuts out or restricts specific foods or food groups
· Is only concerned with short-term changes and does not address long-term lifestyle adjustments
· Has strict rules
· Encourages pills, supplements or products that you are dependent upon
· Makes claims based on individual testimonials or a single study
Now with Crowe’s list being exhausted, there are of course exceptions to his rules. There are always outliers, like the Gluten-free diet for those people actually diagnosed (by a doctor!) with Celiac disease, or a lactose-free diet for someone that is actually diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Basically what I’m getting at here is that a self-diagnosis is not accurate.
The truth is that fad diets can negatively affect athletic performance and health. This happens due to nutritional advice being given that isn’t scientifically sound. Some fad diets are so restrictive that only a few foods can be eaten that do not provide adequate nutrition, in turn causing the body into a state of catabolism, or muscle break down, in order to stimulate weight loss. At this point it should be further recognized that the real goal of weight loss is actually fat loss, not just weight. Crowe (2014) goes on to discuss the appeal towards these fad diets due to the promise of dramatic results over a short period of time. But review of most fad diet shows rapid weight loss related to rapid water loss, which leaves you with smaller and poorly functioning muscles while the fat remains.
So there you have it, some guidelines on how to identify a fad diet. It isn’t that hard, often what I ask people is “can you see yourself doing this for over a year? 5 years?” The answer is often no, which should also be your answer on whether or not you should try the diet. Also, remember where this information is coming from. Often times a new diet fad is started by someone completely unqualified to deliver nutritional advice to begin with (eg. Beyonce's INSANE Cayene pepper diet and ANYTHING coming from the mouth of Doctor Oz - read my last post to better understand my lack of respect for this man and his unethical and hocus-pocus Nutritional recommendations).
Remember that there is no shortcut to health and weight/ fat loss. Attempting fad diets causes something called a yo-yo effect where your body becomes so used to rapid and unsustainable weight changes that it makes it harder for sustainable weight loss to occur later on. So go with the tried and true methods for weight loss, diet and exercise. Sure it’ll take some time, but always remember, Rome wasn’t built in one day and any weight loss journey is like a flight of stairs, you have to take it one step at a time!
Crowe, T. (2014). Are fad diets worth their weight. Australasian Science, 35(1), 18-19.