What is sports nutrition?
Sports nutrition is the meticulous study of the kinds and amounts of food and fluids that an athlete consumes and how the consumption of those foods affects the health and overall performance of the athlete.
Not only does sports nutrition look into the kind of food to be consumed by athletes, but it also looks into how these foods should be consumed for maximal results. The whole purpose of sports nutrition is to optimize the performance level of athletes.
As an athlete and sportsperson, your body has become like a tirelessly worked engine, exposed to everyday stress. The body is tasked with long and hard workouts, and sometimes athletes suffer from sleep deprivation, leading to even more stress.
Sports nutrition is essential to allowing your body to work through the stress, maintain good health, and raise the body to higher performance levels.
To ensure optimal results, the five golden rules of sports nutrition must be carefully followed.
What are they?
1) ALL ATHLETES ARE NOT THE SAME
Irrespective of whether the athletes are in the same field or they are of the same age; each athlete has unique sports nutrition needs.
Sports nutrition is not a “one size fits all” affair. Each athlete has what works for them, depending on their bodies, their goals, and overall makeup. What works for athlete A might not work for athlete B.
In other words, you should not copy someone else’s sports nutrition plans, or you might run into problems. More clearly put, the individual idealized recommendations and diet plans normally include creating a plan based on:
- The athlete’s body weight
- The athlete’s height
- The type of sports played
- The duration of exercise
- The intensity of exercise
- The athletes training cycle
- Health condition of athletes
- Competition schedule
These are all important factors to consider. The plans are designed on very specific characters of each individual; it is not something to be cloned or copied.
To find out what works for you, you either go through the method of trial and error and risk wasting your time and efforts, or you take the easy and more efficient way out; see a sports nutritionist.
2) DO NOT PERFORM ON AN EMPTY STOMACH
Performing on an empty stomach as an athlete is the same as consistently driving a car on a very low tank. Not only do you risk damaging your fuel pump, but you also risk getting stranded in the middle of nowhere.
This is similar in sports. Performing without food is like running with no gas. You get burned out and unable to move on during the performance, and also risk harm and attracting health challenges to your body. Energy is required to carry out all your exercises and activities.
Sports nutrition studies show that it is best to eat 2 hours before training or the performance begins. If for some reason, you are unable to eat, you can get fruit or an electrolyte drink just before training. The reason for this is that you have to get your blood sugar steady because this is where all your energy comes from. Discover what works for you in terms of what your body needs to consume, and you’re already one step ahead.
3) AVOID SKIPPING MEALS
You’re probably familiar with the saying: “Breakfast is the most important meal”. It’s something that is resounded and emphasized by health practitioners everywhere.
Surprisingly many athletes choose to skip this meal, develop irregular eating habits and chaotic eating patterns.
Skipping meals, or eating in a pattern that does not meet your body’s energy requirements, creates several problems. You risk getting fatter and having a lower lean mass. Skipping meals has also been linked to an increased level of stress, which is a barrier to achieving peak performance. Sports nutrition can help to prevent these mistakes. Having or skipping breakfast has great effects on how the body works throughout that day.
Most people, however, cannot bring themselves to have a full meal in the morning because they are simply not hungry until later in the day. If you fall into that category, it’s okay.
You don’t have to have a huge meal in the morning. It’s advisable to start with eating foods that are light and simple. For example, you could take some fruits, a glass of milk, avocado or even a boiled egg. Bars also work just fine.
The reason for doing all of this is that your body needs to be familiar with the concept of receiving nourishment in the morning, it’s easier to build an appetite for breakfast this way.
4) HAVE A MEAL PLAN DEVELOPED 2-3 DAYS TO YOUR PERFORMANCE
Sports nutritionists can help you carefully map out a diet plan to be strictly followed on the days leading to your big event. This is necessary, as it gives your body time to prepare for the said event and keeps it in top condition.
Some athletes do not bother going through this route, and then they are surprised when they are not on their best performance.
Your sports nutritionist makes planning easier for you. They also stick with foods that have proven to already be good for you, provide enough energy, and won’t create any stomach upsets.
5) DO NOT IGNORE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
As an athlete or bodybuilder, you are not a robot or a soulless work out machine. You are a human being with a life. Sports nutritionists understand that the physical and psychological expectations placed on you by the sporting environment may lead you to develop depression, especially during periods where your goals seem out of reach and your relationships with others seem to be hitting the rocks.
As psychological distress intensifies, your performance can be negatively affected. A sports nutritionist, on noticing these effects on an athlete’s performance, can collaborate to develop a customized nutrition plan that will improve the quality of their results.
Sports nutrition encompasses all aspects of the diet for improved sports performance and athletes’ overall well-being. Every athlete who means to go somewhere in his career must take it very seriously.