Sports Nutrition is the systematic study and implementation of diet and nutrition when it comes to enhancing anyone’s sporting performance. Nutrition is a very important component of all sports training regimes, being equally popular in endurance and strength sports. Nutritional needs of athletes vary depending on their physical activities and intensity. This is where sports nutritionists come into play. It is also their main job to create a proper diet plan and meal schedule for the athletes to facilitate peak performance

The diet that you take is not enough to maximise your potential, especially when it comes to peak performance and training intensity. You will need all the help you can get in implementing a comprehensive sports nutrition plan. An ideal diet is one that has an adequate intake of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins, with the right amount of saturated fats and low levels of salt. Sports nutritionists often advise athletes to increase their intake of carbohydrates, protein and sodium by up to 40% of daily intake to enhance muscle mass, improve hydration and promote energy. But how much and how fast do you need to intake?

Generally speaking sports nutritionists will advise an individual to eat four meals per day, spread throughout the day. Breakfast should be taken first thing in the morning. A good breakfast provides the body with the necessary energy to carry on with the rest of the day’s activities. Common breakfast items include eggs, oatmeal, and cereal. For the late afternoon and early evening, a light meal consisting of lean meat such as chicken or fish is ideal. Snacks can be consumed around two hours before competition, during breaks or immediately after the competition.

Each meal has to be balanced and provide the right proportion of each nutrient. An athletes nutritional dietitian will help you choose the perfect meal that meets your specific needs. One of the biggest benefits of sports nutrition is providing the right fuel for competition. The ideal fuel has been shown to improve performance goals and reduce recovery time. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for most athletes, therefore they should be the first ingredient in your sports diet. Eating a wide range of carbohydrate sources such as whole grain bread, rice, pasta and cereals; and taking part in regular exercise can increase the amount of carbohydrates eaten and this will reduce recovery time.

Creatine is one of the most important nutrients for an athlete’s muscle growth and performance. A combination of creatine and glutamine has shown to have a dramatic effect on muscle growth and strength. Glutamine is an amino acid which is stored in muscle and is mainly used during intense exercise when muscles are at their most stressed. Glutamine can also be found in the human brain, which makes it important to ensure adequate levels are maintained. Sports nutrition specialist can advise on the best creatine and glutamine supplements to use.

Another important nutrient for active individuals is sodium, which can lead to high sodium consumption when consuming food. This is especially true for sports nutrition professionals advising athletes to stay away from salty foods when exercising. As well as sodium, potassium is also found in plenty in vegetables and fruits so is often overlooked by athletes when thinking about nutrition and working out. Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure and is a vital nutrient for athletes.

Protein plays a vital role in building strong muscles and also has many benefits when working out. Protein is a building block of all living things and is used in the body’s metabolism. Proper timing with proteins consumed during intense exercise is essential for maximising workout and reducing recovery time. Whey protein and casein are examples of high quality protein that can help to maximise protein usage. Other sports nutrition include timing of carbohydrates, fats and essential vitamins.

Many people underestimate the importance of drinking liquids when training and competing. Dehydration is common in competitive sports and can lead to muscle damage, inflammation and soreness. Sports nutrition professionals recommend that athletes drink around 2 litres of water per hour, however this should not be carried on an empty stomach to avoid water retention. Sports nutrition drinks are available at most health and nutrition stores. Hydration drinks are made from natural sugar and provide the body with energy and nutrients. Sports nutrition drinks provide a wide range of benefits but should be used in conjunction with diet and exercise to achieve maximum results.

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