According to Dr Ryan, the basics of sports nutrition apply to weekend warriors that squeeze in one or two sweaty gym sessions per week just as much as they do to NFL players.
Their fitness goals may be different, acknowledged Dr Ryan, but incorporating the right balance of macronutrients (i.e. protein, carbohydrates, and fats) is essential.
“The overarching theme of sports nutrition is putting the right nutrients into your body at the right time,” Dr Ryan told FoodNavigator-USA.
“I think often a sentiment that we hear is, ‘Well, I’m not going to use sports nutrition until I’m at my ideal weight.’ And one of the biggest mistakes we see with people when they’re trying to lose weight, is that they workout and then they don’t eat,” she said.
“Incorporating the principles of sports nutrition when you’re trying to lose weight is going to really help…because consuming adequate protein post workout is going to help you build lean muscle, building lean muscle is going to increase your metabolism, and increasing your metabolism is going to help you reach those body composition goals even faster.”
According to Dr Ryan, a workout starts before stepping foot on the treadmill or football field with a pre-workout drink containing carbs and electrolytes, to fuel and hydrate your workout.
“Just simply putting water into your body is not going to be giving your body what it needs,” she explained.
Similarly, a workout doesn’t end when you leave the gym or step off the field.
“For your post workout, that’s really where the protein comes into play. Your workout is not finished until you have your post workout shake.”
Protein + carbs = a winning combination?
Following Dr Ryan’s sports nutrition approach may seem heavy on the protein (one serving of Herbalife24 Restore mix contains 24 g of protein) but sports nutrition isn’t all about the protein.
“We know that the combination of protein plus carbohydrates is more beneficial than just protein alone,” she said.
“It’s not that we’re focusing too much on protein, it’s that the way that we’re focusing on protein is at a detriment to the other macro nutrients that are also vitally important for how we function throughout the day.”
Dr Ryan said she is on a mission to bring back carbs (from whole food sources such as whole grains and fruits) into the fold of the sports nutrition conversation.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve demonized carbohydrates without adequate education that I think in a way is really hurting us.
“We really go back to this notion of balance, rather than there be one macronutrient that’s superior to the rest.”
Dairy vs. plant-based protein in sports nutrition
Herbalife24, the company’s sports nutrition line of products which are all third party NSF tested for banned substances, uses a combination of whey protein and casein, which provide all the nine essential amino acids and are utilized at different absorption rates by the body.
“Whey and casein are utilized by the body at different rates. Whey is utilized by the body very quickly and casein is used over time. When you have that combination you get immediate and sustained recovery. Those two different timelines are really important for athletes and the everyday athlete,” said Dr Ryan.
Dr Ryan added that a consumer can achieve their sports nutrition goals on plant-based protein sources and that soy (used in the regular Herbalife product line) is the best option.
“It [soy] contains all nine essential amino acids, but it doesn’t have those two distinct absorption curves the way that the dairy protein does.”