Sports Nutrition is the practical application and study of diet and nutrition especially with regards to enhancing anyone’s sporting performance. Sports nutrition is now becoming quite popular in endurance sports and strength sports. These are sports that require athletes to be more physically and mentally tough and as such are the ones requiring the most nutrition care. There has been a lot of research done in this area over the years. One of the most significant breakthroughs was in the area of sports nutrition where scientists have been able to come up with a proper balance of nutrients to enhance one’s performance.
The nutritional needs of an athlete are different from that of a non-athlete. The first thing to consider is hydration; ensuring that the body always has at least the right amount of water for performing all the necessary activities. Sports Nutrition recommends a good intake of sodium, which can be obtained from canned vegetables, meats, fish and dairy products. Sodium is however best avoided in the intake of sports nutrition since it can cause high blood pressure and even cardiac arrest in high levels. High levels of sodium are also dangerous for an athlete during intense physical activity.
Sports Nutrition suggests that athletes should also include fats in their diets because fats can improve energy and physical performance as well as reduce the risk of getting heart attacks and strokes. Eating fish is considered to be a good fat choice as it provides the athlete with omega-3 fatty acids which are very important to an athlete’s mental and physical health. However, in spite of this, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that athletes should limit their consumption of fish and should only consume them in small amounts. Some nutritionists have however suggested that athletes should consume low-fat dairy products to compensate for the lack of fish in their diet.
Another area of Sports Nutrition that is important to sports enthusiasts is protein intake; ensuring that the athlete ingests enough protein before, during and after their workout session. Sports nutritionists suggest that an athlete consuming enough protein should increase his/her energy level so that they can train harder and longer. Protein shakes have been proven to be effective in providing an anabolic environment necessary for intense physical exercise.
The other principle of Sports Nutrition is ensuring that the right nutrients are included in the daily diet. Athletes should consume carbohydrates and proteins while consuming fats in moderation. Adequate intake of vitamins is also recommended because they help improve an athlete’s immune system and recovery process. Different vitamins play different roles in an athletic performance; therefore, it is important that an athlete is knowledgeable of the specific vitamins he should consume to optimize his/her training and performance.
Sports Nutrition has further implications beyond the sports arena. Studies have revealed that Sports Nutrition can have positive effects on diet and nutrition for the general population. This includes prevention of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, sleep disorders and depression. It is also believed that proper nutrition helps an individual to increase his/her lifespan. This is possible because Sports Nutrition improves nutrient intake and prevents various diseases which usually affect the aging process.
When it comes to carbohydrates, sports nutritionists advise athletes to consume complex carbohydrates that provide energy to the body without increasing the calorie intake. For athletes who require carbohydrates for energy, whole wheat bread, pasta, fruits and vegetables are advised. On the contrary, a person who is trying to lose weight should limit the consumption of simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta) because these types of carbohydrates are converted into sugar and stored as fat. Some of the healthy carbohydrates that an athlete can consume include grain cereals, whole-grain bread, brown rice and sweet potatoes. As far as proteins are concerned, athletes should get one gram of protein per pound of body weight or consume lean meats and eggs.
In order to optimize Sports Nutrition, it is important to know the difference between sports drinks and health drinks. Sports drinks are alcoholic beverages while health drinks are non-alcoholic. An athlete can consume sports drinks during competitions and games but he/she cannot drink health drinks between workouts. Sports Nutrition and health drinks can be combined but the mixture should be prescribed by a professional in sports medicine.
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