Sports Nutrition

Sports nutrition is a broad interdisciplinary field that involves dietitians, biochemists, exercise physiologists, cell and molecular biologists, and occasionally psychotherapists. It has both a basic science aspect that includes such concerns as understanding the body’s use of nutrients during athletic competition and the need for nutritional supplements among athletes; and an application aspect, which is concerned with the use of proper nutrition and dietary supplements to enhance an athlete’s performance.

Many scientific studies have examined how sports nutrition practices and sports supplements help boost physical performance.
Over 3 decades of scientific research reveal that the physical demands of athletic training and competition create special nutritional needs. This means that your specific athletic conditioning determines which foods and supplements work best for you.

Of course, all athletes need to follow the general rules of healthy eating, but they also need to modify their dietary intake of certain nutrients to enable them to achieve maximum performance in their particular sport. For example, an endurance athlete – also called an oxidative or aerobic athlete – needs different amounts of macronutrients then a strength or power athlete.

Whether you are a bodybuilder, a professional athlete or simply exercising to improve your health, sports nutrition plays a key role in optimising the beneficial effects of physical activity.

Making better decisions with your nutrition and hydration can result in improved performance, recovery and injury prevention.

Nutrition professionals offer a range of services to support your health and sporting goals. This can range from a daily food diary, to a comprehensive food and nutrition plan for training and competitions.

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The ultimate goal of sports nutrition is to enhance an athlete’s performance. However, before that, the athlete’s body composition needs to be worked on, so that the athlete’s speed, balance, mobility, strength and concentration can be sharpened. Moreover, the bodies of several athletes go through a lot of wear and tear and may also sustain injuries. The sports diet should boost their immunity system and increase their internal body strength so that they can recover from such afflictions at a faster pace. The ideal sport diet increases the athlete’s overall energy, not just on the sports field, but also during practice sessions. Therefore sports nutrition is not just eating right for particular even, but making dietary changes to meet an athlete’s long term requirements.

However, it is important to realize that every individual has different dietary requirements, based on their age, gender, body type and their levels of activity and all of these factors should be taken into consideration, while planning a diet for a sports person.

While it’s important to eat a balanced diet containing adequate amounts of all of the essential nutrients, scientific research has shown that a balanced diet alone does not provide sufficient nutrition to individuals undergoing strenuous physical activities.

For example, endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, require twice the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of protein and total calories, while strength athletes, who rely on large muscles, require even more protein than endurance athletes do. Moreover, dietary surveys conducted on athletic individuals of both sexes show a dietary deficiency of one to several essential vitamins and minerals.

The scientific evidence indicates that a diet containing adequate amounts of macronutrients does not necessarily contain adequate amounts of nutrients.

Keep in mind, however, that just as it takes time to perfect your athletic skills, your sports nutrition program also needs time to develop. When you give it enough attention, you’ll experience a significant improvement in your athletic performance, improvements in body composition, and health.

Sports nutrition has several purposes:

• 1- To prepare athletes before performance or training.
• 2- To maintain an acceptable level of performance during competition or training.
• 3- To help the athlete’s body recover after training or athletic competition.
• 4- To provide sound information about healthy dietary practices and use of supplements.
• 5- To monitor athletes for signs of eating disorders, doping, supplement abuse, or other unhealthful nutritional practices.
• 6- To provide specialized nutritional advice to athletes following vegetarian, vegan, or other special diets.
• 7- To monitor the special nutritional needs of persons with disabilities who participate in athletic activities and programs.

Assessment of energy needs

You need to provide your body with enough energy (kilojoules) to meet the demands of training and enable proper recovery between exercise sessions. Training or competition generally increase daily energy requirements depending on duration, type and intensity of the activity.

The four macronutrients are:

• Protein (source of amino acids)
• Carbohydrates
• Lipids (fats)
• Water

all of which you need in plentiful amounts each day.

Micronutrients – mainly:

• Vitamins
• Minerals

Are needed in relatively small amounts, and have been shown to be essential to growth and development. And for good health and winning athletic performance.

Fats, protein and carbohydrates all provide your body with fuel to maintain energy.
Carbohydrates are the primary fuel used by working muscles. Adequate intake is essential for preventing muscle fatigue.
While you should monitor your fat intake, you should not remove it from your diet completely. Fats provide fatty acids that can be used as a source of energy – especially if your exercise sessions last longer than one hour. Fats also provide the building blocks for hormones and formation of cell walls.

Protein can be used as a source of energy and is critical for building new muscle tissue. If you are taking part in resistance training, your body will require additional protein.

Athletes usually require a higher level of calorie intake than nonathletes, although the amount varies depending on:
the athlete’s sex, age, height, weight, body composition, stage of growth, level of fitness, and the intensity, frequency, and duration of physical exercise.

An appropriate diet for most athletes consists of a minimum of 2000 calories per day:

• 55–65% should come from carbohydrates
• 15–20% from protein
• 20–30% from fats.

Athletes who exercise strenuously for more than 60 to 90 minutes every day may need to increase the amount of energy they get from carbohydrates to between 65 and 70 per cent.

See also: “Common sports nutrition questions | Everything you should know

More recent advice also provides guidelines for carbohydrate and protein based on:
grams per kilogram (g/kg) of body weight.

The current recommendations for fat intake are for most athletes to follow similar recommendations to those given for the general community, with the preference for fats coming from olive oils, nuts, avocado, nuts and seeds. Athletes should also aim to minimise intake of high-fat foods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, chips and fried foods.

Sports supplements

Sports supplements are often good sources of both macronutrients and micronutrients. Other substances found in sports supplements include:.

Metabolites (Products Of Metabolism) Such As:

• Creatine
• Carnitine
• Glucosamine
• CoQ10

Botanicals & Botanical Bioactives, Such As:

• Bioflavonoids
• Plant compounds with antioxidant tissue protection vasoactive botanicals and other health promoting properties.

From the start, you should keep in mind that the foods and supplements you need will be dictated by the physical activity you are undertaking.

In general, however, your sports supplements should include a good multivitamin and multi-mineral formula that contains antioxidants, such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and bioflavonoids.

Because many studies show that a large percentage of athletes do not take in adequate amounts of dietary protein, a protein supplement is also recommended, especially for strength athletes. Such as football players, weightlifters, and bodybuilders.
Certain types of carbohydrate drinks have been shown to act as potent performance beverages and are particularly useful directly before, during, and after exercise.

You’ll also benefit by including a good source of EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids). That may include an essential fatty-acid supplement in your regimen.
Lastly, throughout your training period and competition season, you may find the use of:

Ergogenic Aids.

What Does Ergogenic Mean: “Performance-enhancing”, or “muscle-gaining capacity building”, especially by eliminating the symptoms of fatigue.

Ergogenic Aids include good nutritional practices. use of special sports nutrition products; use of dietary supplements; and psychological techniques, such as visualization.
Others include training techniques, such as weight-lifting/resistance training; and therapeutic technologies, such as massage – all of which, when combined, will result in enhanced athletic performance and body composition.