The nutrition needs of athletes are different and higher than those with sedentary or fairly less active lifestyles. It’s common knowledge. But what’s not is that sports nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated, as it’s often made. Here are some fundamental sports nutrition guidelines to help you get onto the right path, stay healthy and perform at your best:
1. Eat Protein, But Not Too Much
Protein isn’t necessarily a source of instant energy, but it is vital for athletes (or anyone with a highly active lifestyle, for that matter). It helps to build and repair tissues and is also essential for muscle mass. It also improves recovery and may also help you not get sick.
You don’t need a lot of protein, though. So, don’t load up your meals with protein.
Athletes only need a little more protein than non-athletes. While the exact amount varies from person to person, on average, proteins shouldn’t make more than 12% to 15% of daily calories.
2. Don’t Run Away from Carbs
Carbohydrates have got a bad rap. But they aren’t the monster of the food world as they are made to look. They are the fuel for your body and give you the energy to spend hours working out, training, and performing at your best in the field. Throw in some carbs in your pre- and post-training meals/snacks to amp up your energy, boost your immune system, decrease muscle protein breakdown, and speed up recovery.
For athletes, most of the calories should come from carbohydrates. But choose your carb sources wisely. Not all of them are equal. Eat good carbs and combine simple and complex ones to provide your body with both immediate and lasting sources of fuel.
3. Do Not Underestimate Water
With all that intense exercise and sweating, athletes are often at high risk for dehydration. So, drink up and make sure you stay well-hydrated. Make sure you don’t wait until you feel thirsty because it indicates that your body is starting to get dehydrated.
Keep hydrating your body with small amounts of water and fluids frequently throughout the day.
4. Be Mindful of Your Salt and Electrolytes Intake
The general public is often advised to avoid high-salt foods. But it doesn’t apply to athletes, especially high-performance ones in warmer climates. Excessive sweating makes you lose salts and electrolytes from your body. And if you don’t refill, your performance will get a hit. You will also become more prone to cramps.
There are many specialized electrolyte drinks available on the market for athletes. Also, they are abundant in green leafy veggies.
For salt intake, the simplest tip from sports nutritionists and experienced athletes is to add a pinch of salt to each litre of your drinking water. Make sure to use the unrefined variety. If you can use sea salt, that would be great.
Keep Track of Your Nutrition
It might feel like a tedious task in the beginning, but using an app or a food journal to keep track of your nutrition will help you get an accurate overview of your nutrient intake and eating habits and make sure they are aligned with your body’s needs, which then will help you put out your best performance. So, track your nutrition just as you track your workouts and training.