When you feel like training or performing at your best, what do you need? Fuel! Whether it’s a workout for an Ironman competition, a high-intensity 30 minute run on the treadmill before work, or just working out with friends after work and dinner – we all crave that performance edge. And while there are many options available to us in terms of food and supplements that can give us that edge – some better than others – nutrition is key.
To meet these needs, athletes have access to a wide range of foods and nutritional products.
- Macronutrients. Macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, and fats fuel physical activity and sports participation. Carbohydrates are the most important fuel source for athletes because they supply the glucose that is used for energy. Proteins, on the other hand, are responsible for the development and repair of muscle, hair, nails, and skin. Proteins do not serve as a primary source of energy during mild or brief exercise. Proteins, on the other hand, help to maintain blood glucose levels through liver gluconeogenesis as exercise duration increases. Finally, fat is required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) the provision of essential fatty acids, the protection of vital organs, and the provision of insulation.
- Micronutrients. Micronutrients are essential for the body to function. These nutrients are needed in small amounts, usually less than 100mg each day. Micronutrients can come from food or supplements. Some common micronutrients include calcium, iron, omega-3s, and vitamin D.
- Fluids. Fluids, especially water, are essential nutrients for athletes. What, how much, and when an athlete drinks can all have an impact on his or her athletic performance. Fluids aid in the regulation of body temperature and the replacement of sweat losses during exercise, but they should be consumed throughout the day rather than just before and after exercise. Athletes should drink 400 mL to 600 mL of cold water 2 to 3 hours before their event. Also, you should drink 150 mL to 300 mL of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes while participating in sports.
- Performance Enhancing Supplements. If you feel like your workouts aren’t as effective as they used to be, it might be time to try some new supplements. Performance-enhancing supplements can provide you with the extra energy you need to finish those last few reps or get through an intense workout. Protein powder and amino acids are supplements that help build muscle and increase strength, while caffeine improves focus and endurance.
The goal of sports nutrition is to assist athletes in optimizing their performance potential as well as their overall health. The top priority for adolescent athletes is healthy growth, development, and maturation. A well-balanced nutritional strategy is needed for achieving and maintaining maximum athletic performance. A sports nutritionist, in addition to daily meal planning, is involved with the needs of athletes before, during, and after training sessions and competitions.