There is a link between proper nutrition, good health, and optimal sporting performance. The impact of nutrition on sporting performance is one that should not be overlooked, especially if you want to outperform your competitors and be on the top of your game.
As an athlete, you should understand that the secret to improved performance is hinged upon an adequate nutritional plan.
Daily diet requirements for training
The world of sports revolves around healthy competition and the quest for success. But success in any game is characterized by active exercise and physical fitness. What better way to improve your training performance than to have a well-structured nutritional plan. But what should be the characteristics of the essential training diet?
According to fitness experts, your necessary training diet as an athlete should be adequate to perform the following functions:
- Enhance recovery and adaptation after each training session.
- Provide a sufficient amount of nutrients and energy to meet the demands of exercise and training.
- Enable athletes to attain the right fat levels and body weight for optimal performance.
- Support the long and short term health status of athletes
- Ensure that adequate fluids are provided for maximum hydration during training sessions.
The athlete’s diet
As an athlete seeking to outperform your competitors, you must have an excellent nutritional plan. According to a study on the role of nutrition in sports, the source and amount of energy required for an athlete to perform optimally should come from these broad categories.
- Carbohydrates (more than 55%)
- Protein (about 12 to 15%)
- Fat (less than 10%)
For athletes who are involved in strenuous exercise for about 60 to 90 minutes daily may require a higher carbohydrate energy content of about 65 to 70%.
Carbohydrates and exercise
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose during exercise. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the body. Glucose is, however, converted to glycogen and is stored in the muscle tissue and liver. During exercise, glycogen is used as a critical source of energy for fueling muscle tissues as well as other systems in the body. By eating high carbohydrate foods, athletes may increase stored glycogen in the body. Such a situation may result in a breakdown of muscle tissues and may increase the risk of illness and infections.
Carbohydrates are essential for recovery and source of fuel
As an athlete, your carbohydrate requirement is dependent on the intensity and duration of your exercise. According to nutritionists, foods that are rich in unrefined carbohydrates such as cereals, bread, and wholegrain form the basis of an appropriate diet.
The following amount of carbohydrate is recommended for consumption by athletes based on their level of exercise:
- Light intensity exercise (3-5g/kg/day)
- Moderate intensity exercise (5-7g/kg/day)
- Exercise for endurance (6-20g/kg/day)
- Extreme exercise(8-12g/kg/day
Before your big day, you may need to be careful of the kind of food you eat if you are to stay competitive and of course, outshine your competitors. It is advisable to have a meal that is high in carbohydrates at least 3-4 hours before your final exercise for optimal performance.
Taking a small snack an hour or two before you exercise may also help to improve performance.
For those who may experience digestive discomfort if they should eat before exercising, it is advisable to avoid high protein or fat meals. Instead, a high-carb meal is recommended before exercising because it helps to prevent gastrointestinal upset.
According to dietitians, the proper meal and snacks suitable for pre-exercise or before a game include low-fat milk, cereal, crumpets/muffins/toast, yogurt, fruit salad, tomato-based sauce, muesli bar, low-fat breakfast, or low-fat creamed rice.
Related Article: Breakfast – The Key to Health & Fitness Success
Eating during exercise
Studies show that taking carbohydrates during a workout or intense sporting activity, which may last above 60 minutes, is required to delay fatigue and replenish blood glucose levels.
Recent studies suggest that about 30-60g of carbohydrate is recommended for athletes during a long high-intensity game. Carbohydrates taken during high-intensity sporting activity may be in the form of sports gels, sandwiches, sports bars, white bread, etc.
It is also advisable to consume enough fluids during exercise to prevent dehydration. For a long period of high-intensity sporting activities, you may take fluids such as diluted fruit juice, sports drinks, and water.
Eating after exercise
After an intense sporting activity or exercise, glycogen replacement is essential. Consume carbohydrate foods in the first 1-2 hours after exercise. I mean carbohydrate foods with a high glycemic (GI) index. Some examples include juices, sports drinks, low-fat flavored milk, cereal, pasta, yogurt, sandwiches, and crumpets/muffins.
To top up glycogen stores after exercise, it is advisable to eat carbohydrates with a moderate to high GI in the first half-hour or so after a workout. This should be continued until the regular meal pattern resumes.
The impact of protein and sporting performance
Protein is an essential food nutrient that helps in post-exercise repair and recovery. You may, however, meet your protein needs by adhering to a diet high in carbohydrates. This may be attributed to the fact that most carbohydrate-rich foods contain both carbohydrates and proteins, primarily cereal-based foods.
The following list shows the recommended amount of protein for athletes based on their level of training
- Non-endurance event (1.0-1.2g/kg of protein per day of your body weight)
- Endurance events (1.2-1.7g/kg of protein per day of your body weight)
The use of nutritional supplements to improve sporting performance
Dietary supplements are beneficial when there is a deficiency in your diet. However, don’t take any dietary supplement without a recommendation from a qualified health care professional. Failure to do so may pose health risks if you take supplements without proper prescription. You may find nutritional supplements in capsules, tablets, liquid, or powdered form.
However, it is important to note that you may be at risk of committing doping offenses by taking certain supplements irrespective of the sport.
An excellent nutritional plan may enhance sporting performance. Hence, as an athlete, you should eat foods that are rich in unrefined carbohydrates such as cereals, wholegrain bread, etc. to increase glycogen storage, which is necessary for energy refueling.
Always stay hydrated by drinking water and other fluids, which may help prevent dehydration.
Aside from physical training, you may perform better than other competitors by eating smarter.