Athletes’ nutrient needs are higher than the average population. Firstly they have a greater energy expenditure. The foods consumed also need to provide the body with additional specific nutrients to maximize performance, muscle repair, and recovery.
The ability to push the body to extremes in training and competition requires the athlete to be in peak health. Without the necessary nutrient support, the athlete can suffer illness due to compromised immunity, muscle breakdown, fatigue, and poor recovery.
Athletes Nutrient Needs
As exercise increases, the need for certain vitamins, minerals electrolytes, and antioxidants also increases. Understanding the athlete’s training regime and the nature of the training is vital to producing a meal plan that provides the right nutrients at the best time.
Calcium & Vitamin D
Training puts extra strain on bones. Calcium and Vitamin D work together to strengthen bones helping to prevent breaks or stress fractures. Ensuring adequate access to sunlight particularly in winter when the sun isn’t as strong will help with Vitamin D synthesis.
Sodium is an important electrolyte that is lost during sweating. Electrolytes are responsible for sending nerve impulses to muscles and organs. It is important to keep electrolytes in balance. It is important to increase sodium intake when training or competing particularly in hot temperatures.
Vitamin C is important to athletes as it helps immune function. Athletes can become run down and prone to respiratory infections. Vitamin C provides some protection from these infections.
Iron is responsible for transporting oxygenated blood through the circulatory system. Too little iron can lead to anemia and impede carbon dioxide and oxygen transportation.
Carbohydrates are an important macronutrient for athletes. It provides a quick source of ready energy to power the activity. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for working muscles. Varying carbohydrate needs occur before, during, and after training. It’s important to note that different types of sports such as endurance sports will require a completely different carbohydrate approach to others which require a burst of energy.
Athletes need to ensure they are consuming adequate protein for the extra activity level. Increased protein levels help to reduce muscle breakdown and aid in the building and repair of muscle. The amount of protein required will depend on activity level and type of exercise undertaken.
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Supplements V’s Food for Athletes
We have established that athletes’ nutrient needs are in excess of the general population. For this reason, it may be tempting to think supplementation is the whole answer. Before we go reaching for the protein powder it’s important to note that an athlete also has increased energy needs.
The energy needs of athletes can be hundreds of additional calories per day!
Because of the increased nutrient and energy requirements, to have a competitive advantage athletes should be consuming a nutrient-rich diet. Failing to consume adequate calories can have a detrimental effect on performance, and recovery.
When the body has a deficit of energy it will burn fat for energy. Burning fat is less energy efficient. If the athlete doesn’t have excess fat reserves the body will break down muscle mass to use for fuel. This is a catabolic reaction to not providing the body with enough fuel.
In short, increasing food intake and consuming a quality diet is the best practice for ensuring adequate nutrients. Once the optimum diet has been determined there may still be a need for supplementation.
To increase protein levels a good quality Whey Protein Isolate may be recommended. The required amount can be calculated at the correct rate to make up for the shortfall by your nutritionist. Not all protein powders are created equal, so please do not purchase a supplement before your consultation.
To gain a better understanding of your individual requirements book an appointment to discuss your needs.