Throughout life, we are often told about the importance of a healthy and balanced diet. When partaking in sport, the importance of this is stressed even further!
The link between nutrition and good health has been known about for many years now. But, how does this link back to sporting performance? No matter whether you’re a competitive athlete or enjoy sports for leisure, understanding the relationship between sporting performance and food is crucial. We’re here to help you out.
The Relationship Between Diet and Training
Every human being on this planet requires a whole series of vitamins to function normally. As your body keeps up with the physical demands of being involved with sports, the need for these nutrients becomes all the more evident.
A well-planned and nutritious diet should help all athlete’s to meet their nutritional needs, promoting efficient energy release and providing enough protein for muscle growth and repair (EFSA, 2010).
To summarise, as an athlete, maintaining a proper diet will help to:
- Promote both short and long term health
- Provide the body with energy and nutrients
- Ensure maximum hydration before, during and after sport
- Meet optimal body fat levels for enhanced performance
What’s “The Athlete’s Diet”?
Truth be told, absolutely everyone needs to maintain a balanced diet to meet their nutritional needs. While an athlete may have slightly larger demands to obtain sources of energy, the following requirements should be considered by the general public, too.
When talking about “the athlete’s diet”, it means that energy intake should be divided into:
- 55% carbohydrates
- Around 15% protein
- Less than 30% fat
Please note that the above recommendations are just guidelines and will differ depending on sporting performance and body weight.
Essential Nutrients For Athletes
As athletes have increased nutritional needs, understanding exactly what the body needs is essential. While all nutrients are important, the following are considered “crucial” for athletes expending a lot of energy.
Zinc: Zinc plays many important roles in the body. For athletes, it is most commonly known for maintaining muscular performance and strong bones (EFSA, 2009). Foods high in zinc include poultry and whole grains.
Iron: Iron is necessary for the transport of oxygen around the body (EFSA, 2009). It is also known for contributing to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, which is why some athletes choose to take iron supplements. Foods high in iron include red meat and spinach.
Calcium: Calcium helps to build and maintain strong muscles (EFSA, 2009). Foods high in calcium include cheese, milk, spinach and fortified cereals.
Vitamin D: Also referred to as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is mostly obtained through sunlight. It is important for the immune system and also helps to build and maintain strong muscles (EFSA, 2010).
B Vitamins: Vitamin B is essential for energy metabolism (EFSA, 2009). It helps to turn your foods into energy, giving you as much help as needed for sporting performance.
It’s clear to see that there is a very strong relationship between sporting performance and food. Without obtaining the right nutrients through your diet, you might not be able to reach optimal energy or muscle strength levels.