Sports nutrition is a study that usually deals with the daily dietary regimen of people involved in strength training and those who are actively involved in endurance sports like racing, swimming or cycling. However, the branch can also encompass the needs of other sports persons and physically active individuals.
Origin of Sports Nutrition Study
The ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome were aware of the special needs of their sports men. The earliest Olympic performers were fed on a diet of meat, wine and alcohol which were believed to a performance booster.
The modern day studies are more scientific and are based on individual requirements. The athletes are placed on a strict regimen in order to achieve excellence and prevent chronic diseases.
Sports Nutrition Recommendations
- Balanced Diet- Dieticians recommend eating a balanced diet comprising carbohydrates, proteins and fat during each meal. The portions vary according to necessity and individual goals.
- Carbohydrates- This is the main source of energy for a sports person and experts recommend whole grains, starchy vegetables and fruits as the ideal sources of obtaining it. Artificial sweeteners and processed foods are not considered to be healthy for an athlete.
- Protein- This is the only food constituent which helps in building up lean muscles and repairs damaged tissues. The demand for proteins is substantially higher for sports persons with the maximum amount being equal to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. The protein can be obtained from lentils, whole grams, animal products and dairy, and sports nutrition professionals claim that the requirement can be easily fulfilled by diet alone.
- Vitamins & Minerals- Almost all vitamins play an important part in an athlete’s nutrition and nutritionists recommend the intake of supplements along with the daily diet. Iron and calcium are the minerals most needed for sporting activities which can be obtained from red meats, cereals and dairy products. Regular weight training exercise also help in increasing the bone density, another fact that the sports persons need to remember.
- Fluids- Eight to ten glasses of water every day are required by every individual to keep the body hydrated. People involved in sporting activities or rigorous exercises need a higher amount. While the intake of water is recommended before, during and after the activity, most nutritionists recommend sports drinks which replenish the lost electrolytes as well.
- Meal Timings- The experts insist on proper meal timings for every constituent of the daily diet. Sports persons need to consume a snack or eat a light meal an hour prior to the activity. This helps in enhancing the energy levels. Carbohydrates are the primary constituent of these meals with adequate amount of protein and fluids.
Sports Nutrition Benefits
The branch of study does not aim to treat illnesses or recommend a diet to overcome deficiencies. On the contrary, it deals with the procedures of enhancing the vitality of an athlete or an active individual by suggesting diet plans that have been formulated on the basis of scientific facts. The benefits associated with sports nutrition are not confined to the sports professionals alone. People leading a physically active life and those following a strict workout schedule can also benefit greatly by following the regimen. The health benefits that are most obvious include:-
- Weight management and development of lean muscle tissue.
- Immune system gets a boost by following a healthy dietary regimen making the body less prone to illness.
- Sports persons and active individuals tend to get less exhausted and can increase their endurance levels considerably.
- Different dietary plans for different sports help in enhancing the performance.
- Prompt muscle repair does not slow the athlete down and helps in maintaining an optimal performance level.
Supplements for Maximizing Sports Nutrition Benefits
- Protein Shakes and Bars- They contain a number of amino acids and can help in compensating any dietary deficit. They are required during exercise training and help in boosting the performance and for muscle repair.
- Creatine Supplements- These supplements contain glutamine usually along with ephedra, androstenedione and chromium which help in enhancing muscular strength.
- Energy Drinks- These help to increase the energy levels by increasing the Vitamin B and carbohydrate content of the body. Most of these supplements also contain caffeine which is known to stimulate the nerves resulting in increased alertness and loss of fatigue.
Performance enhancing substances like anabolic steroids and amphetamines have been banned and do not come under the purview of Sports Nutrition.
"Sports Nutrition: What Is It?" Journal of Nutrition & Physical Activity" written by Ronald J. Maughan