Sports Nutrition: Eating For Optimum Performance
, 4 min reading time
, 4 min reading time
Sports Nutrition: Eating For Optimum PerformancePeople who are frequently in training, or do high volumes of exercise to keep their fitness levels up, have special dietary needs and requirements to make sure that they are getting all the right levels of protein, carbohydrate and vitamins to make sure their bodies are in peak condition at all times. Over the last few years there have been many different scientific developments which mean that whatever the sport is that is being participated in there is a special diet or way of eating that means optimum performance is achieved. Planning a healthy and well balanced diet can actually be a pleasure to do, as can learning about how all the different food groups help to build and develop muscle. The foods sports people need for good health The key to really good nutrition, especially for sports people is to rely on a more natural diet, one that strays away from refined or processed foods wherever possible. The main key groups are: Proteins: Many sportspeople favour a high protein diet that is low in carbohydrates as they believe this helps them build more muscle mass. It’s never been truly scientifically proven, however and it is still advised that protein in the diet should be balanced with carbohydrate too. It’s important that the source of protein consumed is lean and good quality, so foods like chicken, turkey and either oily or white fish are recommended. Vegetarians should favour the consumption of soy based products in their diet to get their quotient of protein. Red meat should be kept to a minimum and not eaten directly after training as it can prove difficult to digest. Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates come in two forms, simple and complex. For anyone involved in intense sport it is better that they avoid the simple type and opt for complex. Simple carbohydrates are anything sugary or sweet or anything that contains refined flours, so white breads, cakes and biscuits. Complex carbohydrates are to be found in wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice. These can be converted by the body into a more useable form of glucose which can be broken down for energy. Fats: Fats are an important part of a sportsperson’s diet but the must be the right sort of fats. Saturated fats should largely be avoided in favour of unsaturated ones. The former are found in deep fried foods, processed meats and highly calorific dairy products like cream and cheese. The latter are found in oily fish, nuts and seeds and vegetables like avocados. These should be eaten in moderation. Fruits and Vegetables: Particularly in the case of fruits and vegetables it is always best to consume them raw and in their natural state, so for instance, eating an apple rather than drinking apple juice. The energy that is taken from raw fruits and vegetables is much more desirable than the energy taken from cooked. Similarly, sports people are very often advised to concentrate on eating more vegetable matter than fruit. This is because they offer more long term, slow release energy and less in the way of sugar which can interfere with blood sugars. Supplementation and Energy Drinks Very often, as well as having a good and varied diet, sports people will also rely on supplementation and energy drinks to help them boost their strength, their muscular power and also their recovery after a training session. These take many different forms from simple multivitamin tablets or drinks through to energy compounds such as diet whey protein and energy drinks that contain electrolytes, vitally important after an intense training session to restore fluid and salt levels to the body. Whey protein is something that is naturally present in milk and when taken in supplement form as part of training can provide a good source of energy which is typically easier to digest than traditional dairy products which can sometimes have a sluggish effect on the system. Food and exercise Sports nutritionists recommend that you wait between one to four hours after a meal before undertaking exercise, this is so the body has chance to digest the food properly. This is obviously dependent on the sort of meal you are eating. A small meal or snack will take less time to digest than a large three course dinner. A medium sized meal, that contains a good source of complex carbohydrate, some protein and a little but not too much fat that is eaten around two hours before exercising will provide the right sort of energy for your training session. Keeping well hydrated throughout an exercise session is important too, if your exercise session is to last for more than thirty minutes then water will be needed to hydrate throughout and afterwards.