We are all athletes. We all take part in physical activity, and exercise. The body is designed to move, and adapt to the demands placed on it. The level of training that we subject ourselves to is the difference between a collegiate athlete, Olympic athlete, and a recreational athlete.
Physical activity is bodily movement that results in an increase in energy expenditure above resting levels. Exercise has been defined as physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposive in the sense that improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is key. Exercise may be described as anaerobic or aerobic. Aerobic means “with oxygen” and is used in reference to exercise or activity that primarily uses the oxygen-dependent energy system. These types of activities can be sustained for a prolonged period of time and are referred to as endurance activities. Anaerobic means “without oxygen” and is used in reference to exercise that primarily uses one or both o the energy systems that are not dependent on oxygen. These types of activities are short in duration and high in exercise intensity.
Exercise physiology is the science of the response and adaptation of bodily systems to the challenges imposed on it by movement (physical activity, exercise, and sport). Nutrition is the science of the ingestion, digestion, absorption, metabolism, and biochemical functions of nutrients.
Sports nutrition is the integration and application of scientifically based nutrition and exercise physiology principles that support and enhance training, performance, and recovery.
Sports nutrition is an art that is based in scientific evidence. Identifying the nutrient and energy needs of every individual is the overarching goal of sports nutrition. However, we all eat for more reasons than just to perform better. Sometimes a pizza sounds better than a protein shake. This is why sports nutrition is an art.
General training goals in which nutrition can play an important role:
Improving specific components of fitness
Avoiding injury and overtraining
Achieving top performance for selected events (i.e., peaking)
Adequate energy intake to meet the energy demands of training
Adequate replenishment of muscle and liver glycogen with dietary carbohydrates
Adequate protein intake for growth and repair of tissue, particularly skeletal muscle
Adequate overall diet to maintain good health
Appropriate weight and body composition
Consumption of food and beverages to delay fatigue during training and competition
Minimization of dehydration and hypohydration during exercise
Utilization of dietary strategies known to be beneficial for performance, such as precompetition meal, appropriately timed caffeine intake, or carbohydrate loading
Intake of nutrients that support recovery
Appropriate timing of nutrients
Sports nutrition recommendations build upon and refine basic nutrition guidelines. The basic sports nutrition guidelines are a good starting point for both strength and endurance athletes, but they must be modified according to the athlete’s sport.
An adequate amount of energy Is needed to support training and performance and to maintain good health. Appropriate amounts of food should be consumed daily to avoid long-term energy deficits or excesses. Adjustments to energy intake for the purpose of weight or fat loss should be made slowly and started early enough in the training mesocycle to not interfere with training or performance.
An intake of 3 to 12 grams (g) of carbohydrates per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day is recommended. The daily amount needed depends on the sport, type of training, gender, and need for carbohydrate loading. Timing is also important, and recommendations for carbohydrate intake before, during, and after exercise are made.
An intake of 1.2 to 1.7g of protein per kg of body weight per day is generally recommended. This recommendation assumes that energy intake is adequate. The daily amount of proteins needed depends on the sport, type of training, and the desire to increase or maintain skeletal muscle mass. Timing of protein intake is also important.
After determining carbohydrate and protein needs, the remainder of energy intake is typically from fats. Fat intake should range from 20 to 35 percent of total calories. Diets containing less than 20 percent of total calories from fat do not benefit performance and can be detrimental to health.
Athletes should balance fluid intake with fluid loss. A body water loss in excess of 2-3 percent of body mass can decrease performance and negatively affect health. Similarly, an intake of water that is far in excess of fluid lost puts the athlete at risk of hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels) and this can be fatal.
Nutrition for sport and exercise is an important topic and critical to understanding how to take performance to the next level.
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