Sports nutrition is important to an athlete’s overall health and performance. Well timed nutrition can lead to health benefits in everyday life and is important in both pre-workout preparation and recovery. Nutrients supply adequate fuel to help ensure performance at its best throughout training, competitions, and races. (1)

Macronutrients provide the bulk of dietary requirements. They include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Macronutrients are key factors in sports nutrition because they provide for so much of the energy and rebuilding materials used for energy and during recovery.

Pre-Workout Nutrition

An example of pre-workout meals and snacks high in macronutrients is a bowl of oats with fruits, nuts, and protein powder. It is important to regulate the intake of protein and fat in order to maintain digestive efficiency. Opt for high-quality, nutrient-dense carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Include lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, dairy products, tofu, legumes, and whey or plant-based protein powders.

Timing meals prior to and after sport activities is crucial for performance enhancing nutrition. Eating too much protein or fat prior to an event like a marathon may slow you down and decrease performance. And eating too little food can result in less energy when race time comes while the right types of food/nutrients is important too. Nutrients including protein and fat require energy to digest before an activity. Eating carbohydrates that you like to eat before an event helps with preparing for sports. (2)

Post-Workout Nutrition

Eating enough nutrients after exercise helps the body to rebuild after intense activity, becoming stronger and more capable than before. Timing is vital to post-exercise recovery as your body needs energy and eating nutrient dense foods enhances it. Waiting too long to eat may lead to further body fatigue, muscle cramps, and deterioration of muscle.(3)

Supplements can be another terrific way of including nutrients in your diet. Common sports supplements include Branch-Chain Amino Acids(BCAAs), caffeine, and whey protein powder. Other micronutrient supplements that also benefit optimal performance include B vitamins, Iron, and calcium. It is important to make whole foods your main source of nutrient intake as the nutrients provided through supplements are not meant to replace food intake and do not contain as much nutritious value as eating whole foods.

Proper meal planning is key when preparing for athletic activities. Knowing when and how to power one’s body both before and after exercise can make the difference between a positive and negative workout. While easy to digest carbohydrates are ideal to eat prior to endurance activities such as running, foods high in protein should be opted for after exercise to provide the right amount of nutrients to build and repair muscles. Macronutrients eaten in balance to meet individual needs for performance and recovery helps fuel performance. A typical diet should consist of approximately 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 25% fat with a range of variation of 5-10% based on preference.

Conclusion

Understanding nutrition and following a dietary regimen can help tremendously in sports performance. Maintaining proper intake of protein, hydration, and supplements is highly recommended and encouraged according to a timed schedule to maximize readiness and recovery. Monitor the difference eating the right foods at the right time can have on your performance. Consult with a sports nutritionist if interested in producing a dietary plan for reaching your full potential.

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