Effective diet and nutrition are an important part of an athlete’s training. A sportsman’s valued qualities- strength, agility, endurance, and vigilance are the result of his nutrition-rich diet regimen recommended by the sports nutritionists.
Every athlete’s body type, kind of sports, training he/she is going through, and the sporting goals play a crucial part in planning a wholesome diet. Weight lifting, bodybuilding, wrestling kind of sports need a different diet plan which focusses on body weight and strength building.
Whereas, some other sports such as swimming, field games, or cycling need strength, stamina and agility as the main qualities. The diet plan for sportsmen engaged in such sports must be different.
Sports nutrition and diet are a key factor in training and holistically preparing the sportspersons for the sporting events. The studies show that ensuring optimum nutrition and hydration levels boost the performance. The diet also contributes towards reducing the risk of injuries and quickens the recovery.
The diet for sportspersons comprises a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fluids, creatine, and supplements. Depending on the athlete’s requirements the diet is formulated.
The sports diet is also good for active adults engaged in physical training and sports, who aim to build and maintain a strong and perfect body.
Sports diet and Hydration
Adequate hydration is as important as the intake of foods with adequate nutrition. Training and exercise periods stretch the body’s endurance level, keeping oneself hydrated gives best results during these times and in competition.
Water is the best way to compensate water-loss in the body and re-hydrate it. If one feels the extra need for rehydrating the body, they may take electrolytes and/or carbohydrates filled energy drinks formulated for sports purpose. Electrolytes augment the water retaining capacity of the body and generate the urge to drink more water. The carbohydrates provide that extra energy needed for extended periods of training.
Excess loss of bodily fluids reduces the cognitive abilities of a person and affects the performance. Dehydration can be sometimes life-threatening too. So, every sportsperson needs to keep his/her body adequately hydrated by regular intake of water.
The inclusion of fluids along with nutrition-rich foods is what makes the sports diet complete and ideal.
Energy Requirement, Muscle Growth and Recovery from Injury – Focus of Sports Nutrition Diet Plan
Energy is an important aspect of an athlete’s fitness regime. Hence, he/she needs more calorie intake compared to an average person. However, calorie stuffing alone should never be the focus of the diet program. The diet needs to be balanced with muscle strengthening, and tissue building components for providing complete nutrition.
Carbohydrates are the major source of energy for a person. The carbs break down the food into glucose and provide energy to the body.
There are two types of carbs. One, simple and the other complex carbohydrates. Natural sources of simple carbohydrates are milk and other dairy products, honey, fruits and vegetables. While they add taste to the food, they are also rich in micronutrients and fibre. Simple carbs are easy to digest and are converted to energy quite quickly. Artificial sweeteners or white sugar are devoid of any nutritional value and only add sweetness to the food.
Complex carbohydrates take time to digest and release energy gradually. Starchy foods such as potatoes, oats, rice, grains, brown bread are a good source of complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates check the muscle exhaustion by supplying them with enough energy during workouts.
Unprocessed or less-processed foods are an ideal choice to fill your carbs needs. For adults engaged in workouts, the diet should be balanced with both kinds of carbohydrates to provide continuous energy to the body. The diet plan for professional sportspersons varies depending on their daily training sessions, expected results and body requirements.
Proteins are another important diet element in sports nutrition. They contribute to building the muscles and maintaining their strength. The protein contains essential amino acids that are vital for tissue regeneration. Proteins are the elementary component of our body’s skeletal structure. Skin, muscles, bones, cartilages, blood and enzymes are made of protein. Protein also aids in the formation of hormones and generates certain body chemicals required to keep the body in healthy condition.
Whole grains, nuts, low-fat dairy, soy products, lean meat, eggs, and fish are rich sources of protein.
Fats, as much they are kept away from the diet, they are much useful in providing sustained energy to the body during extended periods of workouts. The fats act as a storehouse of energy for the body and aid the body to absorb the nutrients in the food. The fatty acids in the fats assist in building the cell membranes and regulate hormones.
Unsaturated fats are good for the body and are found in foods like fish, nuts, avocados, olives etc. Saturated and trans fats are not health-promoting fats. Omega 3 and 6 are crucial fatty acids required for sportspersons. Processed foods are the main source of such fats, thus, you should avoid the consumption of the same.
Carbohydrates are best suited for high-intensity training and fats are good for long duration workouts. The sports diet is specifically tailored to meet the sports requirement such as strength or endurance and an athlete’s body type.
Why sports nutrition?
Sports nutrition enhances one’s performance and endurance during training and in the competition. Sports nutrition is for both, professional sportspersons as well as those who exercise or train regularly for keeping themselves fit.
Sports diet –
- Enhances stamina
- Improves attentiveness
- Fasttracks recovery
- Lessens the chances of injury and controls the adverse effects
- Manages healthy weight
- Ensure overall good health
Supplements in a Sports Diet
Many sports nutritionists and diet experts suggest supplements as add-ons to the regular diet plan. The supplements basically enhance the strength and overall performance of the athlete. However, supplements are only to provide additional benefits and do not substitute for a good diet. Based on the body requirements and sporting goals supplements can be taken for a certain period.
Some of the supplements are also termed as controversial components in the sports diet plan as they enhance the energy of the athletes to achieve peak performance.
Some of the recommended supplements are whey protein and creatine.
Whey protein is a by-product of the process of making cheese from the milk. It contains high protein and fewer fats and carbs. Whey protein gets digested easily by the body providing quick energy and nutrition.
During high-intensity training, BCAAs ( Branch Chain of Amino Acids) are the ones to burn down quickly to provide nourishment to the body. Whey protein is a rich source of BCAAs.
Creatine termed as an ergogenic supplement is another quick energy boosting component that is naturally produced by our bodies and found in fish and meat. It can be taken as a supplement for enhancing energy levels and muscle strength during intense and prolonged workouts.
Registered nutritionists specialising in sports nutrition recommend medical supplements such as multivitamins, iron, calcium, vitamin D or omega 3 fatty acids along with the regular diet to rule out the deficiency of micronutrients in the athletes.
Anyone who is pursuing moderate to high-intensity physical exercises, or an aspiring sportsperson, need to keep in mind that their body requires a unique diet plan to meet their fitness or career goals. Sports nutrition plan significantly enhances one’s energy levels and performance. A word of caution, however, is to consult an expert nutritionist in the sports arena and ask them to draw out a plan for you.