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Is Anxiety Hindering Your Performance?

March 20 2012

By Debra Meszaros CSN

Is Anxiety Hindering Your Performance?

Anxiety is very common in the United States as more than 60 million people will suffer from it at some point in their lifetime. For the athlete, anxiety, to any degree, can be your worst enemy. You train hard and fine-tune your skills preparing for the day of your event or competition; nothing can ruin a day at the track quicker than anxiety. So what you can do to lessen, prevent, or overcome anxiety should be of utmost importance to you.

For most athletes, anxiety is an overreaction of your nervous system to a simple thought or feeling compounded by a chain of dietary factors and or your body's normal processing of specific nutrients. It has also been linked to hypoglycemia, as blood sugar levels can trigger reactions. Focusing on protein at every meal and providing yourself with high protein snacks will help keep a steady blood sugar level. Reducing or eliminating simple carbohydrates like white pasta, donuts, pastries, processed grains, chocolate, and forms of sugar; and replacing them with complex carbohydrates like vegetables and whole sprouted grains aid your body in maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Anxiety sufferers seem to have an exaggerated response to caffeine so soft drinks, energy drinks, and any product containing caffeine should be completely avoided. Additionally, many food products today contain aspartame, sucralose, and other artificial or chemically based sweeteners, all of which are claimed to have a possible causative role in anxiety. They are often found in protein powders, protein bars, gum, diet products, low fat products, and sports/electrolyte drinks; so read your labels.

Studies have uncovered the possible link between low GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid] an amino acid/neurotransmitter that helps reduce stress, which seems to contribute to the body overreacting. Supplementation of GABA can be explored but should not be taken with certain medications so always check with your doctor first. SAMe, tryptophan, and 5-HTP are also options one may want to explore. Neurotransmitters are involved in every thought process, are manufactured by the body via amino acids, and a full compliment of essential and non-essential amino acids can be consumed by utilizing quality protein powders.

Essential fatty acids, also known as Omega 3,6,9 etc. play a key role in balancing brain function and emotions. Often lack of focus and proper emotional balance are a result of insufficient available essential fatty acids, especially animal omega 3's. Research supports the benefits of essential fatty acid supplementation. Incorporate healthy portions of wild salmon, sardines, etc. into the diet.

An array of B vitamins have also shown promising for anxiety sufferers as they are the fuel for your adrenal glands and directly tied to anxiety via the nervous system. Those suffering from anxiety seem to have higher bodily requirements for B vitamins. Research suggests less than sufficient levels of inositol, niacinamide, and B6 are all associated with nervous system disorders.

The average American is very likely to be magnesium deficient, but athletes or anyone under physical and/or mental stress actually have a higher than average bodily demand for magnesium. Magnesium is not abundant in our food supply and therefore deficiency is extremely common. Magnesium is an excellent relaxant and can help build higher stress tolerance levels.

Relaxation methods have proven to be excellent tools for anxiety. Simple deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, peaceful music, and any form you choose for relaxation can be beneficial. Strive to live in the moment, practice not worrying about the past or future. Utilizing EEG bio-feedback or neurofeedback is an established treatment for anxiety. These tools together with dietary adjustments and therapeutic supplementation could possibly be your answer.

Disclaimer: When you read through the diet and lifestyle information, you must know that everything within it is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. I am making no attempt to prescribe any medical treatment. You should not use the information here for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. The products and the claims made about specific products have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. Confirm the safety of any supplements with your M.D., N.D. or pharmacist (healthcare professional). Some information given is solely an opinion, thought and or conclusion based on experiences, trials, tests, assessments or other available sources of information. I do not make any guarantees or promises with regard to results. I may discuss substances that have not been subject to double blind clinical studies or FDA approval or regulation. You assume the responsibility for the decision to take any natural remedy.

You and only you are responsible if you choose to do anything with the information you have read. You do so at your own risk. Use your intelligence to make the decisions that are right for you. Consulting a naturopathic doctor is strongly advised especially if you have any existing disease or condition.