- Nutritional Advice & Tips
Sports Nutrition Essentials for the Competitive Athlete
Every athlete who wants a winning edge must never slacken when it comes to proper nutrition. For the body to perform optimally and meet all the physical and mental challenges of any sport there is a need to eat balanced meals and drink the right amount of fluids. An athlete, who wants to perform at his or her best, must be able to produce the needed energy, which is only possible with regular intake of the right kinds of food in the right amounts.
Sports nutrition can be confusing, especially now that a huge volume of information is available from a variety of sources. Athletes have many questions when it comes to proper diet and nutrition, especially while they are undergoing training for an upcoming sports event. Should the diet include any special food items? What is the right amount of fluid to drink? We shall try to these questions with a few useful sports nutrition guidelines that a competitive athlete can follow.
Generally, athletes have a higher carbohydrate requirement than non-athletes. Athletes require a reliable source of energy, especially for workouts. However, it is still important for every athlete to partake of meals that contain all the essential nutrients that the body needs. Aside from carbohydrates, every meal must have representatives from all the main food groups, including proteins, fats/lipids, as well as vitamins and minerals. Water is also an important component of an athlete’s diet.
Factors that influence an athlete’s diet during training
Although there are general guidelines that need to be followed, an athlete must follow a dietary program that is tailor fit to very specific requirements based on a variety of factors. Some of the factors that must be taken into consideration are size, age, and physical condition of the athlete. The components of the diet must also be based on the objective of the training program. Is the athlete training for power and strength, or are the training activities intended to develop cardiovascular endurance?
The importance of hydration
As much as 60% of the body weight of every athlete is composed of water, which is an important component of almost all bodily processes. Water must be taken in adequate amounts each day since the body cannot make water. Any excess amount is eliminated in the sweat and urine. During the training period, athletes must make sure to take in the recommended eight cups of water (approximately two quarts) per day. While doing workouts, it is best to take in cool water, which also helps reduce core body temperature. In such weather, the athlete must be vigilant about preventing dehydration. It is important to be watchful of signs, which includes paying attention to the amount and color of urine. A person who is properly hydrated produces a large volume of urine that is clear and nearly colorless. Meanwhile, a dehydrated person produces small amounts of urine. In some instances, urine that is dark-yellow in color indicates dehydration.
The amount of water intake must be increased if the athlete is working out while the weather is hot and humid. This is a very important guideline to follow since working out when the ambient temperature is elevated incurs higher losses in body water in the form of sweat. Meanwhile, during athletic events, it is important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after physical exertion. The athlete must match the amount of water that is lost via sweating with the right amount of fluids taken in. Moreover, water must be drunk even when the athlete does not feel thirsty. A person starts to feel thirsty when 2% of the body weight in water. If this state is reached, physical performance may already be compromised. In order to remain adequately hydrated, the habit of taking in small sips frequently must be developed. This is better than taking large gulps of fluid with large gaps of time in between.
In the morning before the competition, the athlete must continue to pay attention to the amount and Essentially, the pre-competition meal ought to contain enough carbohydrates to keep the blood sugar levels at optimal levels. The meal must also be filling enough to ward off hunger pangs. In addition, the fluid content must be enough to keep the athlete hydrated.
There are certain foods that an athlete must avoid before participating in a competition. For example, eating fatty types of food (fried) and foods that are high in protein may compromise physical performance, since these foods will require a longer time to digest and add extra work to the kidneys as well.
Lastly, athletes must schedule the pre-event meal at least 3-4 hours prior. Liquids must be taken at least two hours before the event. About 10 to 15 ounces of fluids may still be taken in 15 minute to half an hour before the contest starts.
type of food eaten. The meal on the day of the event can still affect the individual’s performance.