Fuel your body to reach peak performance level
No matter how well an athlete is prepared in terms of their training regime, they will never be able to achieve optimum performance level without proper nutrition. As everyone knows, a car will not be at its best unless it has a full tank of quality fuel, and likewise your body also needs to be fuelled correctly if you’re to reach your peak.
This involves achieving the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water to ensure you get the most from your training, are able to recover and, most important of all, produce your best when it comes to competition.
The importance of a proper diet which is appropriate to the particular individual is highlighted in ‘Nutrition and Hydration for Sports Performance’ when they remind us just how diet significantly influences athletic performance.
An adequate diet, in terms of quantity and quality, before, during and after training and competition will maximize performance. Without the correct nutritional support an athlete will not be able to sustain an intensive training programme over a long period of time, hence improvement will be limited. Manipulation of an athlete’s diet can lead to substantial improvement in performance, and be the difference between winning and losing, and success and failure over a season.
The 3Ts of nutrition
The study goes on to suggest that it is not simply a matter of eating the correct type of foods as they point out that the specific time an athlete eats, and the amount they eat are of equal importance. To explain this approach, they have put forward the idea of the 3Ts – Timing, Type and Total.
Timing – In an ideal world it is recommended that elite athletes consume food every three hours, and therefore establish a habit of eating smaller portions but more frequently. This gives the body the best opportunity to digest foods as efficiently as possible, and also ensures the athlete has a plentiful supply of energy inside their body.
Type – It has long been promoted that an athlete’s diet should contain up to 65 to 70% carbohydrate, 20% fat and the rest protein. Whilst this is applicable to some athletes, it is not for every athlete and consideration needs to be given to the amount and type of carbohydrates given to certain players. As an example, certain cereals can actually suppress the body’s use of fat and sports drinks can suppress the burning of fat in the body. Hence a player that has large quantities of either prior to training or playing could still have these carbohydrates remaining in their body after their exercise, which will turn into fat. Protein is extremely important to help muscles repair after exercise and to help muscles grow. It is recommended that an elite athlete consumes 2 grams of protein per kg of body mass per day, and includes protein in every meal consumed.
Total – Depending on each individual athlete and their upcoming schedule of training and playing, the portion sizes may need to be reduced or increased to match their likely physical activity levels. It is important athletes are conscious of the amount of exercise they are undertaking and matching their food intake accordingly.
Important elements of nutrition
Nutrition and athletic performance reminds us that
Eating a good diet can help provide the energy you need to finish a race, or just enjoy a casual sport or activity. You are more likely to be tired and perform poorly during sports when you do not get enough calories, carbohydrates, fluids, iron, vitamins and other minerals.
Basically, what athletes need to fuel their bodies are:
Carbohydrates: These are important for athletes as they provide the body with glucose for energy and are found in pasta, bread, cereal, rice, grains, potatoes, fruit, vegetables, milk, yogurt etc.,
Protein: This is vital for muscle growth and to repair body tissues. Protein can also be used by the body for energy, but only after carbohydrate stores have been used up. It can be found in lean meats like chicken and turkey, eggs, and Greek yogurt.
Fat: This is an important source of energy used to fuel longer exercise and endurance activities, such as hiking, cycling, and long-distance running. This can be found in avocados, salmon, nuts and nut butters, and olive oils.
Water and fluids: Water is the most important, yet overlooked, nutrient for athletes. Water and fluids are essential to keep the body hydrated and at the right temperature. Your body can lose several liters of sweat in an hour of vigorous exercise.
Refuel before and after exercise
‘Sports and Nutrition: Fueling Your Performance’ provides advice on what you should eat both before and after exercise.
The food you eat before you exercise greatly affects the quality of your athletic performance. These tips will help you plan your pre-exercise meals to prevent low blood sugar, to keep you from feeling hungry, and to fuel your muscles for training and competition.
Eat a larger meal if you have 5-6 hours before you begin your exercise. Smaller “mini” meals are better if have 2-3 hours before your workout begins. Meals that are high in complex carbohydrates (foods rich in carbohydrates for long-lasting energy power) are best because they fuel your muscles.
Avoid high-bulk (high-fiber) foods such as broccoli, baked beans, or bran cereal right before exercise. These foods may cause stomach pains during exercise due to their passing more slowly through your digestive system.
Sugars and sweets don’t provide lasting energy, and therefore aren’t recommended to fuel your exercise.
Limit foods that are high in dietary fat such as fast food, eggs, meat, and cheese for your pre-exercise meal.
Don’t try new foods before a competition.
1-2 Hours Before Exercise: Eat: Fresh fruits such as melon or vegetables , crackers, granola, or cereal bars; Drink: Water, fruit or vegetable juice
2-3 Hours Before Exercise: Eat: Granola bar and yogurt, ½ bagel and peanut butter, cereal and milk, or oatmeal and fruit; Drink: Water, fruit, or vegetable juice
It’s very important to refuel your body after a hard workout. Because your body replaces glycogen stores in your muscle within the first few hours after exercise, it’s important to eat carbohydrates and some protein soon after your workout.
Even if you aren’t hungry, try eating a snack that contains carbohydrates (such as a yogurt or half a sandwich) within 30 minutes after a workout. This will help your body recover quickly.
You should eat a larger meal that’s high in carbohydrates and has some protein within the next 2-3 hours to replace muscle glycogen stores that were used up during exercise. This will help you be in top shape for the next time you exercise.
Sports and Nutrition: Fueling Your Performance
Nutrition and athletic performance
Sports Nutrition – Fuelled for Success by Institute of Sport, Ireland
Nutrition and Hydration for Sports Performance
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