Sports Nutrition is the discipline and study of diet and nutrition especially with regards to enhancing anyone’s athletic performance on the track or on the field. Diet and nutrition in sports are a crucial element of all sports training regimens, particularly being equally popular in endurance sports like sprinting and ultra marathons, and strength sports like weightlifting and power lifting. The reason for this is that in almost every sport, nutrition plays an essential role in maintaining adequate levels of hydration, strength, speed, endurance and body composition. If an athlete is not properly nourished, he or she will run the risk of losing performance because the body will not be able to maintain its optimal efficiency.
One of the major components of a good sports nutrition plan is a well-balanced diet that is rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fats and minerals. Bodybuilders and athletes are often the most conscious about eating right when exercising. In order to fuel the body effectively for intense exercise, the body must have all the essential nutrients that it needs. These nutrients can come from the food consumed during the exercise routine. Some athletes turn to supplements in order to boost their nutritional needs especially if they have undergone surgery or taking certain medications.
Parents should keep in mind that some dietary supplements can actually cause more harm than good in the athletes’ health. This is so much the case with some of the supplements that claim to enhance sporting prowess. It is therefore important for parents to monitor any changes in their athletes’ eating habits and also discuss with them their views on dietary supplements. Some athletes are usually sensitive to such discussions and may even try and dissuade their parents from discussing dietary supplements. It is always best for parents to keep these discussions confidential between themselves and the athletes in question.
Carbohydrates are an essential component of sports nutrition plans and are needed for energy and muscle recovery. Athletes require a high amount of carbohydrates because their muscles need time to recover after strenuous exercise and physical exertion. Body builders, for example, consume large amounts of carbohydrates to fuel their body’s functions when they lift weights. Whereas endurance athletes and swimmers require a lesser amount of carbohydrates because their focus is on building their endurance and swimming very long distances.
The three main food groups that comprise sports nutrition are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Carbohydrates, together with fats, make up the majority of the diet of an athlete and form the primary source of energy. However, just because an athlete requires a lot of carbohydrates does not mean he or she will get enough. Sports nutritionists recommend athletes to eat around six small to medium sized meals per day, rather than the usual three larger ones. This is because the body usually breaks down carbohydrates into energy quicker than it does fats.
Protein is another nutrient that is very important for athletes and sports nutritionists recommend individuals consume two hours before and after exercise. The protein helps repair and build muscles and the recommended quantity of protein for an individual is one gram for every two hours of exercise. For those who are following an exercise plan that involves only walking or jogging, this requirement is much easier to meet since they can simply take protein bars that are already fortified with protein. However, the consumption of protein should be done only after exercising, preferably around four hours before the workout.
If athletes want to increase the amount of protein that they consume, the best option would be to take a whey protein shake. However, there are other sports nutrition pros and cons for this choice as well. One of the cons is that taking a whey protein shake right before working out might cause indigestion, bloating and diarrhea. Some people also find that the taste of the shake is less enjoyable compared to regular milk. The second major pro of whey protein is that it provides a complete solution for athletes who are lactose intolerant.
Protein is essential in the diet of most people because muscle growth and repair occur when there is a sufficient supply of protein in the body. However, it is also important to consider the types of supplementation that are available. Athletes who are following a protein-rich diet should consider the use of protein supplements among athletes. There are three main categories of protein supplements – whey, casein and egg. Athletes who compete regularly should try to consume at least one type of protein supplement among the three in order to meet the requirements of their intense training.
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