In this three part series, guest writer, Andrea Papas, gives his insight into understanding performance nutrition. This is Part One…
Performance nutrition is the ideal nutrition plan that can assist an athlete to optimize their performance through accurate food choices, hydration techniques and eating patterns.
As an athlete, your nutrition may hinder your potential, or it can elevate your performance to an optimum level. It is best to focus on each athlete’s bio-individuality and their plan that would deliver the correct macronutrients, in order for them to perform at their absolute best.
The main goal of performance nutrition is to fuel your body correctly, according to your genetic makeup, in order to increase your energy levels, boost your speed, maximize your strength, enhance your recovery time, and even make you feel better about yourself.
Performance nutrition vs. regular nutrition
The difference between regular nutritional approaches and those in sport performance is the fact that even the most minor shifts and changes from optimal nutritional practice can have a significant impact on sports performance. We need to understand that, in sport nutrition, the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for optimum macronutrient consumption/ratio reaches much higher demands.
Research over the years has confirmed that different sports will elicit different macronutrient and micronutrient consumption patterns for each athlete – athletes simply require more energy than that of a sedentary person.
Athletic performance and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal nutrition – which commands an appropriate selection of foods and fluids, timing of intake, and supplement choices. In addition, it also requires the correct assessment of body composition, strategies for weight change, nutrient and fluid needs, special nutrient needs during training and competition, the use of supplements and nutrition recommendations for vegetarian/vegan athletes, and the roles and responsibilities of the sports dietician.
Energy and macronutrient needs, especially from carbohydrates and proteins, must be met during times of high physical activity to maintain body weight, replenish glycogen stores, and provide adequate protein to build and repair tissue. Fat intake should be sufficient to provide the essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins needed to contribute energy for weight maintenance.
Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration and compensate for fluid loss.
Quality sports beverages containing carbohydrates and electrolytes may be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration, provide fuel for muscles, and decrease risk of dehydration and hyponatremia.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are not needed if adequate energy to maintain bodyweight is consumed from a variety of foods. However, athletes who restrict nutritional intake of correct foods and fluids, follow severe weight-loss practices, eliminate one or more food groups from their diet, or consume unbalanced diets with low micronutrient densities, need to correct those errors and may require supplements. A qualified sports dietician, or performance nutritionist would need to be consulted in this regard.
Three key elements for performance nutrition
1. High/good performance nutritional intake will help you reap the benefits that include high daily energy levels, enhanced recovery, and enhanced gains in strength, power, stamina and endurance.
2. You are what you eat! Good nutrition will make you more focused, improve energy levels, make you feel more productive and efficient, as well as enhance sleep patterns.
3. Correct nutrition will alter your genetic potential to the maximum; if every athlete eats according to their correct macronutrient ratio for whatever sport, this will allow their body to adapt and improve to its true maximum potential.
In Part Two of understanding performance nutrition, I talk about five general tips for safe and effective enhanced performance, performance nutrition considerations, and understanding macronutrients.
Have you enjoyed the start of this series on understanding performance nutrition? What other suggestions have you tried that have helped your performance as an athlete?