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Sports Nutrition and Its Importance

By Medical Expert Team

Apr 19 , 2015 | 4 min read

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Proper nutrition is the very foundation of good physical and mental health. While everybody needs to focus on maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, sportspersons and athletes need a highly specialised approach to nutrition. Proper nutrition, catering to their highly specialised needs could be the key to optimising the training and performance of athletes. Herein lies the importance of sports nutrition.

Sports nutrition is a highly specialised field. It helps doctors and nutritionists plan and apply scientific nutritional principles. These are specially designed to cater to the needs of sportspersons and athletes. The sports nutritionists and dieticians at Max Hospital are among the most experienced and recognised in India.


The Basic Principles of Sports Nutrition 

The three basic principles of sports nutrition are -

  1. Fuelling

  2. Hydration

  3. Recovery

While it is pretty easy to list these principles, their application is a vast area of study and open to interpretation by different sports medicine practitioners.

Fuelling refers to the use of nutrients to enhance the stamina and performance of athletes and fitness enthusiasts. The goal is to use the correct nutrients and micronutrients in the right proportion to increase strength and vitality for optimum performance.

Hydration is maintaining muscle health by the regulation of fluids and electrolytes. The goal is to prevent dehydration and injury.

Recovery refers to using nutrients to help body tissue recover from performance fatigue and/or injury. The goal is to promote healing.


Why is Sports Nutrition So Important?

Most athletes and sportspersons understand that nutrition is key to better performance. The primary nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, form the very fundamental source of energy and help in athletic activity. To understand the importance of sports nutrition, we need to look closely at the various aspects that are studied and practised by experts –

  1. Understanding the nutritional needs of sportspersons and athletes

  2. Finding the perfect balance or proportion of nutrients that supply energy and stamina

  3. Advising athletes about the proper timings for the intake of nutrients to optimise performance and health

  4. Fine-tuning the frequency of food intake to benefit the athlete

  5. Understanding the specific nature of each sport and advising the athlete with customised plans

  6. Understanding the role played by micronutrients in building muscle mass, enhancing performance, maintaining health, and recovering from injury.

  7. Finding the right nutritional supplements to optimise sports performance

The importance of sports nutrition and sports medicine is increasingly felt by athletes. Specialists in these fields are experienced and are best suited to guide and advise professional athletes. However, relying on traditional, unscientific nutritive practices and fads can cause a great deal of harm to the health and performance of athletes.


Some Dos and Don’ts for Athletes - 

A recent scientific study indicates that most professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts do not follow a scientific approach to nutrition. While most are conscious of the fact that a wholesome diet and nutrition play important roles in enhancing performance, they are unaware of what makes up a robust nutrition program. Here are some Dos and Don’ts that athletes must follow.

  1. Do not follow diet fads. These are likely to deprive your body of essential nutrients, but they are also likely to adversely affect your health and performance in the long run.

  2. Consult a professional sports nutritionist to plan your diet. This plan should include meals, frequency of intake, micronutrient planning, vitamin and mineral intake, and sports supplements.

  3. Maintain ideal weight according to your sport. Your food intake must also be planned according to your specific needs for your sport.

  4. Protein is the building block of muscles. Protein intake is very important, but it is not wise to avoid fats and carbohydrates altogether. These are essential nutrients that your body needs.

  5. Do not take supplements, herbs, pills, or drugs without consulting a certified sports nutritionist. Some may cause harm to your health and decrease your stamina and performance, and sports control authorities may prohibit some medications.

  6. Do not go overboard with your caffeine intake. While caffeine can make you more alert, it can also cause dehydration and slow down healing.


The Average Gym-Goer Vs. Elite Marathon Runner

According to most expert sports nutritionists, the average gym-goer or anyone engaging in a sport for about an hour every day should consume 0.8 to 1 gm protein per kilogram of body weight. However, an elite marathon runner requires 1.4-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per day. Similarly, the carbohydrate intake of a marathoner may be as high as 8 grams per kg body weight per day, while the average gym-goer may not need nearly as much. It is differences like this that an experienced sports nutritionist is best suited to handle. The average gym-goer may need a short burst of energy during the exercise regimen and then may have a sedentary lifestyle for the rest of the day. On the other hand, a marathoner will require extensive focus on keeping up stamina for more extended periods and keeping from losing electrolyte balance.


How Can A Sports Nutritionist Help?

A sports nutritionist is trained and experienced in understanding the nutritional needs of the body at different times of the day, during rest and activity, for performance and recovery. Your sports nutritionist will draw up a diet plan, keeping all these factors in mind. This will balance your body’s needs with the frequency of intake. The nutritionist will also help you make wise choices when picking from different foods of a nutritive class. In addition, a sports nutritionist is good at busting nutritional myths and recommending supplements. If you are a professional athlete or a fitness enthusiast, the role of a sports nutritionist in your performance is very important.


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Written by:

Medical Expert Team