Sports Nutrition is the discipline and study of diet and nutrition, particularly with regards to enhancing anyone’s athletic prowess. Sports Nutrition can be defined as the incorporation of diet and exercise into sport activities for the purpose of enhancing physical fitness, performance and even recovery. It is not just about food supplements; rather it is all about understanding your body’s needs and requirements, working within them and making them work for you. Sports Nutrition is a very important part of any sports training regimes, being equally popular in endurance sports and strength sports. As such, these are two different but closely related areas of sports research and studies.
However, sports nutrition is often confused with dieting, due to the fact that both require good health and nutrition. When it comes to diet, the main focus is generally on what to eat and when to eat it, while with nutrition the focus lies in eating the right nutrients at the right time in order to promote good health and nutrition. Many athletes choose to combine both diet and supplementation because of the multiple benefits that it offers them. This is because athletes require a wide range of nutrients in order to sustain their training and competition.
It’s also important to understand that nutrition for active adults is different from nutrition for athletes, despite the common misconception that athletes are always lean and mean. Most athletes are moderately to heavily active and are therefore already providing their bodies with the nutrients they need. However, this is not the case for most adults who maintain a sedentary lifestyle. Most nutritionists and dietitians would advice them to integrate a sports nutrition plan into their lifestyle so as to provide their body with all the vitamins and nutrients required for their normal daily function. Most of these professionals would also recommend that active adults adopt a specialized nutrition plan to help them meet their specific needs.
Usually, nutritional guidelines for active adults are more flexible than those for athletes since they are already following a specific schedule and know their dietary requirements. For instance, an athlete may follow a protein intake level of one gram of protein per pound of body weight for a day while a dietitian may advise them to eat five to six grammes of protein per day. Active adults have to consider the type of exercise or sport that they are engaging in so as to determine how much protein they should consume and in what proportions. Generally, athletes would follow protein intakes that are higher in case of high intensity exercises and lower in case of lower intensity exercises.
The nutrient recommendations for athletes and active adults differ primarily according to the type of physical activity they engage in. In case of athletes, the main requirement is adequate levels of carbohydrates and protein for fuel and recovery. On the other hand, active adults can satisfy their energy and nutritional requirements by including fats, fruits, vegetables and grains in their daily diet. Athletes can include protein shakes, milk and cheese in their diet while dietitians can recommend them to include low-fat milk products, fish and nuts in their diet. They can also include low-carbohydrate foods in their diet such as bread, pasta and cereals.
Another aspect of sports nutrition that needs serious attention is the amount of calories and the proportion of these calories to the amount of physical activity or exercise. A good example would be the athletes who need large amounts of carbohydrates because of the source of energy they get from their training. However, the ratio of carbohydrates to fat is much higher in endurance sports than in any other type of physical activity. Sports nutritionists are of the view that a good diet is one that provides the correct balance of nutrients for all the athletes in a team. A professional American baseball team has its own nutritionist to provide advice on the same.
Sports nutritionists also stress on the need for sports drinks because they are essential in providing adequate electrolytes to athletes during intense physical activities. Since they come in different flavors, athletes can choose the right one for them. Sports nutritionists believe that an ideal nutrition plan includes an assortment of healthy foods and supplements. These include energy bars, sports drinks, protein powders and bars, whey proteins, multi-vitamins, fat burners and fat dispersing powders.
Athletes can also take advantage of nutraceuticals that are designed specifically for their training schedule and competition. This includes energy bars, protein shakes, multivitamins and immune builders. A variety of amino acids, creatine and glutamine are also recommended in their diet plans. Sports nutritionist’s stress on the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet and that any nutritional intake should be one that is consistent with an athlete’s daily exercise regimen.