Sports Nutrition is the fine art and science of diet and nutrition, particularly with regards to enhancing anyone’s athletic performance on the field. It is often used in conjunction with strength training and sports specific training. Sports nutrition is especially popular in endurance sports and high-performance sports, being equally important in power sports like swimming and track and field. There are a number of foods that serve different purposes in the preparation of foods for sports nutrition such as carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Protein is the building block of muscle. Athletes require more protein than the average person because it provides the necessary fuel for intense exercise – especially for those who are more advanced in their fitness routines. Whey protein is often recommended as a supplement for sports nutrition and is one of the best sources of muscle building nutrients available. Whey protein isolate is another form of protein that is formulated to provide fast absorption rate of nutrients. The best time to consume this type of protein is just after your exercise and immediately following a workout session as it can maximize your recovery.
One of the most critical factors in sports nutrition is hydration. Hydration is equally as important to athletes as it is to the general population. Athletic people require a large amount of water because they are perspiring a lot while working out. Water not only regulates the body temperature but also speeds up the process of metabolism. If athletes do not replenish their fluid intake quickly, their performance will suffer as their body cannot process and metabolize water quickly.
Carbohydrates, or simple sugars, provide energy and boost the body’s metabolism. Sports Nutrition has recently been focusing more on carbohydrates as part of the overall strategy for improving athletes’ health and performance. Recent studies have shown that a diet low in simple sugars can increase endurance and improve body composition. However, the effects of the sugar on athletic performance is still being studied. Other important functions of carbohydrates in the diet should be to provide the energy for daily activity and minimally affect performance. A diet low in simple sugars is not recommended during intense exercise.
One of the most misunderstood aspects of sports nutrition is exercise intensity. Experts often recommend that a light, fast-paced exercise like jogging is better than anaerobic exercise because it recruits more muscles. However, studies have shown that the effect of intense exercise on muscle fibers is short term rather than long-lasting. Jogging at a moderate speed is always better than jogging at high intensity levels. It is also better to alternate high intensity workouts with lower intensity workouts in order to prevent a ‘burnout’.
One of the challenges in sports nutrition is creating balanced nutrition plans for athletes. Nutritious and nutrient dense foods are needed, but they should be complemented by other supplements. A basic multi-vitamin and mineral supplement should be included in the diet. Athletes should supplement their diets with essential fatty acids, amino acids, and a variety of other nutrients. Athletes should make healthy food choices to make sure that they receive the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Another important component of sports nutrition is fluid intake. Proper hydration is important to avoid dehydration during athletic activity. During intense physical activities, athletes may suffer from hypohydration and the symptoms may include muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue. Even after the activity is over, water should still be consumed to replace the fluids that have been lost due to fluid loss. If an athlete loses large amounts of fluid during an athletic activity, they should seek immediate medical attention to avoid permanent damage to the kidneys and brain. Other factors that can contribute to dehydration include taking in large volumes of alcohol or caffeine.
Carbohydrates are found in many foods, but should not be overindulged in as they can cause a surge in hunger and cause you to eat more than you normally do. Instead of eating large amounts of simple carbohydrates, athletes should focus on complex carbohydrates. The carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, and legumes are a good source of energy. Athletes should make healthy food choices to stay in good condition and avoid injury. Healthy eating will provide the energy needed for intense exercise.