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Sports Nutrition

What to Eat When You’re Active

From competitive athletes to those who appreciate the health benefits of exercise, everyone needs to consider what they eat. Performance is greatly affected by what nutrients are in your body. What you consume before, during, and after your workout can help you enjoy better results and be safer. Finding an eating strategy that works for you and your activities can contribute to training, performances, and your health in general.

Every body has a few requirements to create sufficient energy for exercise: carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fluids. Regardless of whether you are reaching a finish line or just trying to reach personal goals, proper nourishment can help you push yourself and exceed your expectations. It can also delay the onset of fatigue and help you recover from a workout. Your endurance, performance, and results will be much better once you find the right nutrition for your exercise.

Sports nutrition is applicable to both athletes and active people. Creating a plan for sports nutrition can help anyone perform better and feel better. The health benefits of exercise are complemented by a proper diet to support those activities. Combined, you will experience much improvement in your health and your physical abilities.

 

An Improved, More Active You

When you exercise regularly, your body adapts and changes – improving overall. Implementing a long-term fitness routine can strengthen and improve many aspects of your health. These include our cardiovascular system (blood pressure and flow, oxygen delivery); hormones; respiratory function; immune system; bones and muscles; and metabolism (how we create energy from food).

As you exercise, your body will adjust accordingly. One example of typical change is that the amount of oxygen you can take in and deliver to active muscles (cardiorespiratory endurance) could increase. Your bones and muscles may also get stronger, and your flexibility may improve. Many other aspects of your body can also change to give you a better performance.

Eating right while you stay active is important to helping you train longer and harder; delaying fatigue; helping your body recover faster and adapt to workouts; improve concentration; lower the risk of injury; and reduce the possibility of cramps and aches.

 

 

Before You Exercise

Eating before you engage in a physical activity provides the energy and strength to get you through it. Stick to foods that are high in carbohydrates, provide a decent amount of protein, and also include some fiber and fat. Three or four hours before you exercise, it is important to eat a larger meal. Having a small snack like fruit closer to the time you will be active provides an extra boost your body will appreciate.

 

While You Exercise

With certain types of sports that last longer than a normal workout, you may need to refuel in the middle of your activity. Long races and other events that continue for several hours use up a large supply of your energy and require the body to replenish its nutrients. In these cases, eating easily digestible, high-carbohydrate foods are very helpful in maintaining consistent energy. This is also what sports drinks and gels containing electrolytes and carbohydrates were designed for, providing an extra source of energy.

 

Post-Activity

In order to get the most out of your workout and recover from intense activity, your body may need more energy and nutrients. Replacing carbohydrates, sodium and potassium that are lost during exercise is essential. Protein helps with muscle repair, and may also be a good addition if you experience soreness after you have been active. Directly after a rigorous sporting event or a challenging workout, make sure you eat a snack with plenty of nutrients within 15 minutes to an hour.

 

 

Hydration

If you’re active, one of the top considerations to make is your water consumption. Staying hydrated is one of the most important parts of your workout – before, during and after. This provides your body the fluids it requires to function correctly. Sports dietitians give athletes specific hydration plans to optimize their performance in training and competition while reducing the risk of dehydration, over-hydration, as well as heat illness or injury. The main purpose of a hydration plan is to reduce dehydration without over-hydrating. As every body is different, every one will require a different level of hydration.

How to Monitor Hydration

  • Urine color: If the color of your first morning’s urine resembles lemonade or straw, you are properly hydrated. If it is darker, like the color of apple juice, you need more water and are dehydrated. Dark urine is also prompted by using vitamin supplements.
  • Sweat loss: Alterations in body weight prior to and after exercise are used to determine sweat loss. High sweat loss points to dehydration.

Reducing Dehydration

Dehydration can happen regardless of the temperature or the situation. It simply occurs when an active person is not replacing enough fluids based on how much they sweat. As dehydration over 2% of body weight loss is detrimental to exercise performance, active people are suggested to start their exercise well hydrated, reduce dehydration while working out, and replacing lost fluids afterwards.

The following conditions can have an effect on how much fluid you lose through sweat:

  • Intensity: Harder workout = more sweat
  • Air temperature: Heat = more sweat
  • Body size and gender: Larger body = more sweat
  • Time: Longer workout = more fluid loss
  • Level of fitness: Well-trained athletes sweat more than people who exercise less. This is because athletes cool their bodies through sweat better than most people as their bodies are accustomed to additional work. Therefore, the more trained the athlete the more fluids they will require.

 

Symptoms of Dehydration

Early warnings of dehydration include:

  • Thirst
  • Flushed skin
  • Premature fatigue
  • High body temperature
  • More rapid breathing and pulse rate
  • Difficulty exerting effort
  • Less ability to exercise

More developed symptoms are:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing when working out

 

 

 

References:

 

1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Sports Nutrition.

2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Hydrate Right.

3. Image: sheshineswellness.com

4. Image: answerfitness.com

5. Image: caslab.com

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