In order to keep performing at their peak, athletes – both professional and amateur, need to follow a perfectly balanced diet. By doing so, their body is able to generate the optimum levels of energy and stamina required to deliver a healthy and strong athletic performance.
This, then, is the basis of what is known as Sports Nutrition.
The Meaning of Sports Nutrition
Training or taking part in competitions means an increased daily energy requirement for athletes. Sports nutrition prescribes exactly what is necessary for the body to derive the energy required to meet these demands, and how to recover more effectively following rigorous activities.
The Definition of Sports Nutrition
Sports nutrition is essentially the study and practice of nutrition and diet, and how it can be used to benefit athletic performance and fitness. It is concerned with the type and quantity of food and fluids taken by athletes before, during and after competitions or training.
Consequently, a quality sports nutrition diet is the fuel that keeps the body running at its highest efficiency and is critical to an athlete’s performance at all levels.
The Importance of Sports Nutrition
A well balanced sports nutrition diet plan guarantees continuous improvement in both body fitness and the athletic performance levels. From fuelling to recovery, building muscles to gaining weight. Sports nutrition provides the optimum source of energy required to perform all kinds of athletic activities perfectly and then recover effectively afterwards.
A balanced combination of carbohydrates, proteins and fats can provide the essential calories required when performing physical activities. While carbs are the most important energy source for strength and stamina, proteins help build new body tissues and fats provide energy when undergoing training exercises of low intensity.
How Does Sports Nutrition Differ from General Nutrition Plans?
General nutrition and Sports nutrition are very similar in concept. Nutrition is the process of providing nourishment to the human body through food. Sports nutrition uses the same basic principle as general nutrition but the benefits derived from it are manifold and much more important pertaining to an athlete’s performance.
While an average, non-athlete person can do with a minor/major departure in nutritional practices, even a slightest irregularity in a sports nutrition course can have a significant impact on an athlete’s performance.
Recommended Reading: Sports Nutritionist – A Who, What, Why and How Explanation
With so much focus on the importance of a good sports nutrition system, it must be clearly mentioned here that there is no “miracle” food or dietary plan which can provide the “ultimate” results in a short time. However, there are certain sports supplements that are used by athletes, bodybuilders and other sports persons to provide a “boost” to their strength, performance and recovery time.
Sports Nutrition Supplements
These contain mostly carbs and proteins, and are available in many different forms such as sports drinks, bars and powders. These specialty sports nutrition products don’t contain any more nutrients than a natural (and cheaper) source such as yogurt, cheese or fruits, but they are convenient and can help athletes fit in a much-needed snack as and when required.
Some common sports nutrition supplements include:
i) Creatine – It is used by athletes to increase muscle mass in the body. By doing so, they are able to train for longer periods of time and achieve a superlative performance during high-intensity exercises.
ii) Whey Protein – Known as “naturally complete” protein. It comprises all of the essential amino acids required in the average daily diet for an athlete. They are easy to digest, and can provide instant nourishment to muscles as well as rebuild and repair them in case of wear and tear.
iii) Energy Drinks – The main purpose of energy drinks is to keep the body well hydrate during intense exercises, training or physical activities on the field. Most of the energy drinks contain electrolytes such as sodium that enhances the body’s ability to hold water, and carbohydrates that provide athletes with extra energy boosts required during latter stages of training or performances.
Before taking any form of supplements though, athletes must ensure that their diet is healthy, balanced and tailored to suit their sport. Also, it is always better to consult an accredited sports dietitian or a registered sports nutritionist who specializes in sports nutrition before doing so, as they can assess your suitability for a particular performance enhancing supplement.
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