Sports Nutrition is the discipline and study of diet and nutrition specifically with regards to enhancing anyone’s athletic activity. Nutrition is a vital component of most sports training programs, being equally popular in endurance and strength sports as well as recreational sports. Although there are many different forms of diets that are used for different sports, one must keep in mind that all of these have one thing in common: they promote the growth of muscles and help in the maintenance of them. The following are some of the various factors that make up this discipline and the different types of foods and supplements used.
There are several schools of thought on the subject of sports nutrition. Some experts recommend the use of meal replacement bars as an aid to achieving and maintaining athletic performance. These bars substitute the necessary carbohydrates, protein, and fats that are normally found in a normal diet. Sports nutritionists from around the world concur that such bars are indeed beneficial, but they are not intended to be a substitute for a nutritious diet. Rather, they are meant to supplement and enhance what an athlete might have already eaten while training or competing.
Another school of thought in sports nutrition advocates the use of exercise physiology to determine what nutrients to eat or supplement. The study of how the human body uses nutrients has been a field of nutritional research for close to a century now. Exercise physiology deals with the relationships between nutrition and physical performance. The study can be used by professionals in sports such as athletes and fitness models to design programs that enhance training and improve performance. In addition, it has been applied successfully in weight loss programs, rehabilitative procedures for injuries, and the treatment of diseases and disorders.
Concerns also exist over the use of artificial enhancements in place of natural nutritional aids. Artificial enhancements include steroid treatments, which are banned in several sports due to their negative side effects. Concerns also exist over the environmental exposure that dietitians and exercise professionals receive from using chemical fertilizers and other additives to increase the nutrient value of sports nutrition beverages and supplements. Concerns over preservatives, colorings, high fructose corn syrup, and high fructose corn sweeteners have been among the most serious and influential in recent years. These concerns have resulted in a growing trend toward organic sports nutrition products and supplements, many of which still contain artificial additives and substances.
Concerns over the safety of supplements have also arisen due to the lack of clinical trials that prove the safety and health benefits of such products. Furthermore, certain nutrients, minerals, and herbs used in these supplements are known to interact with other substances, increasing the risk of allergic reactions or drug interactions. Athletes who are eager to maintain a healthy physical activity level often turn to sports nutrition in an effort to promote and maintain their training and recovery routines. However, many athletes become frustrated by the limitations and ineffectiveness of such products.
The difficulty in ingesting adequate amounts of protein during intense physical activity is a major limitation for athletes. Protein plays an essential role in building muscle tissue and repairing the body after strenuous exercise. In addition to providing needed proteins to help repair damaged tissues, protein provides energy to help propel the body through its recovery period. While many athletes consume multi-vitamin and mineral supplements, few ingest enough protein to support muscle growth and repair when in competitive shape.
Athletes require adequate carbohydrates to fuel energy and recover from exercise, but the carbohydrates found in foods like pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes are difficult for the average person to digest. Therefore, even if an athlete ingests carbohydrates during competition, the athlete must consume more than twice the amount of carbohydrates ingested to reach the recommended daily intake for optimal protein utilization. A major drawback to most sports nutrition bars and supplements is that they rely almost exclusively on natural or artificial flavors to mask high carbohydrate content.
Amino acids are another important component of a successful diet. Athletes require large amounts of amino acids to repair and build muscle tissue after rigorous exercise, which explains why athletes who alternate between intense strength training and endurance activities also require large quantities of amino acids in their diet. Amino acids are delivered to the body through food, and the best sports nutrition dietitians monitor calorie and nutrient intake so that the athlete receives the right balance of amino acids. This prevents muscle tissue from deteriorating due to lack of protein.
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