Good Nutrition - Better Performance
The link between good nutrition and better performance
The link between good nutrition and good health has long been established. It is therefore logical that nutrition has a significant impact on enhancing sports performance. Eating a good diet will provide you with the energy needed to finish a race and recover faster.
If you do not receive adequate nutrition from your diet, your performance will suffer, the risk of injury will increase and your recovery will be much slower.
Your diet should provide you with enough energy and nutrients to meet the requirements of your training, as well as enhance the adaptation and recovery between training sessions. You are more likely to experience poor performance and tiredness if your diet does not contain enough calories, carbohydrates, protein, fluids, iron, vitamins and minerals. Let’s have a look at each of the macro-and micronutrients required and what role they play in enhancing your sports performance.
Carbohydrates provide the energy during exercise. When digested carbohydrates are broken down into sugar (glucose), which is the body’s primary energy source. If you don’t use up the glucose immediately it is converted into glycogen and is stored in the muscles and liver. It can then be used as a key energy source during exercise to fuel your body. Eating a diet low in carbohydrates when training can compromise your performance, as your energy source is limited. This can result in muscle loss, as the body will need to break down muscle tissue to meet its energy needs, and may increase the risk of infection and injury. Good carbohydrate sources are whole-wheat grains, fruits, vegetables etc.
Protein is an important part of a training diet and plays a key role in post-exercise recovery and repair. Small amounts of protein can also be used as energy. Good protein sources are found in lean meat, eggs, tofu and Greek yogurt. Eating a diet too high in protein (as nowadays a lot of people do), has its negatives as it can increase weight (too much protein will be stored as fat), dehydration, can lead to loss of calcium and put a burden on the kidneys.
Fat is also a source of energy and can increase the endurance, so it is good for activities, such as a marathon, hiking, and cycling. It is important what kinds of fat are consumed, because long-chain fats, such as trans-fats and saturated fats are not good for your health. You should focus instead on consuming foods rich in mono saturated fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish. Keep in mind also that fat contains twice the amount of calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein, so consume with moderation.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients that do not provide you with energy but they are very important for your body. Certain electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium are important to be consumed during exercise as they have an effect on the amount of water in your body and how your muscles work. Other vitamins and minerals, for example vitamin D and calcium are needed for strong bones, and iron helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Eating a balanced diet and including a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables will get you the needed vitamins and minerals to improve your performance.
Hydration is essential during physical performance. Water is the best source of hydration, so make sure you drink plenty of it. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty, this is normally already a sign your body is dehydrated. Dehydration can impair your athletic performance and lead to dizziness and muscle cramps.
Just as important as what to eat, is when to eat
Fueling your body with foods, rich in carbohydrates before your performance, will help you improve your endurance and will provide you with a good energy boost. Also drinking plenty of water before your performance is important too.
If you are performing a high-intensity activity that lasts over an hour, then you might be at risk of depleting your glycogen stores. Consume some sports drinks that will give you a quick source of carbohydrates, hydration and electrolytes during your performance.
After your exercise you need to focus on recovery and repair. You can consume foods rich in carbohydrates and fiber within the first hour after your exercise. This is also a good opportunity to have some sources of protein and fat.
We will go more in depth about what specific foods to eat to improve your athletic performance in the next post, so stay tuned for more information soon.