Competition is the best motivation for athletes – to train hard and exercise consistently for the purpose of showing up one day to test your strengths. But in order to achieve one’s training goals, preparing for a competition (and the muscle building process), an athlete should also consider sports nutrition and see to it that he or she is getting nutrients from all important sources — macronutrients, micronutrients, and supplements.
Why Is Sports Nutrition So Important?
Sports nutrition is crucial for athletes because it provides energy sources in order to perform at a maximum level and defy his or her limits. It largely affects training, performance, strength, and recovery.
To put it clearly, it’s about the foods, supplements, meal timings and such that an athlete consumes and follows that influences his performance levels and his body’s ability in recovering after the activity — exercise in this case.
Just imagine a hard training’s day, and you’re not eating well. Not only that nutrition insufficiency would affect your performance – but also your overall body functions as well.
That’s the exact same reason an athlete’s daily calorie requirement is higher than that of a person not training for sports or a competition (2000-5000 calories/day).
So, how important is sports nutrition?
Adequate nutrition from healthy fats, protein and carbohydrate supplies your body with fuel for energy maintenance.
For example, carbohydrates regulate the muscle’s glycogen levels to prevent muscle fatigue and regulate blood flow, and also gives you plenty of energy to go through your workouts.
Fats have a crucial role in regulating your hormones, especially the key hormone testosterone. If you have low testosterone levels, you’re at a disadvantage because you won’t be performing at your best. High testosterone equals to high performance and faster muscle growth and strength.
Protein which will help you repair and rebuild your muscles to make them bigger and stronger.
Athletes, more than anyone else, have to maintain a healthy and acceptable weight (think weigh-ins before a boxing or a UFC fight). Balance nutrition, in this case for sports nutrition, plays a vital role in keeping a healthy weight.
Keeping yourself hydrated plays an equally vital role when training or working out as well as when playing sports. If not, drastic effects, such as dehydration might become a problem.
Briefly here: Fluids enables and maintains musculoskeletal lubrication as well as transport nutrients to every cell.
As essential as pre-sports or pre-training nutrition is post-game nutrition, whether you win or lose. You need to consume enough to restore/replenish lost fluids and energy.
Glucose(blood sugar) from them is used by your body for fuel.
When stores are depleted, your performance also diminishes. To prevent this from happening, you need carbohydrates before training for its ability to increase the production and supply as well utilization of glucose , and at the same time, it increases carb oxidation while training.
The stores of glycogen in your liver and muscles are the main source of energy of your muscles during exercise. For longer exercises though, your carb requirements would depend on the type of training, its intensity, and your diet.
TIP: If you’re in the mass-building stage of bodybuilding, you must consume carbohydrates before and during the session. For the best results, consume a combination of at least 20 grams protein and 50 grams of carbohydrates about 1 and ½ hours before exercise. This recommended amount may vary according to your calorie needs as well as the food amount you can tolerate.
How much carbohydrates to take - 1 gram per kilo of bodyweight
Recommended sources are complex carbohydrates in vegetables and whole grains. They’re absorbed more slowly than simple carbohydrates are, keeping your energy levels stable throughout the game or training. Studies also had it that complex carbohydrates improve stamina and endurance better than simple carbohydrates. [A note on simple carbohydrates: These sources include processed and high sugar foods, and they don’t provide sustained energy because they’re absorbed quickly – not ideal for exercise.]
Other good carbs to consume include whole fruits, legumes and potatoes.
It is the slowest digesting macronutrient. Pre-workout, your diet must be low on fat, high in healthy carbohydrates and moderate on protein.
[When it comes to metabolic flexibility, carbohydrates, protein and fat is the order in which how you need to determine their amount].
Fat is said to be the main source of fuel for low and moderate intensity endurance exercise, including triathlons, CrossFit and long distance running.
But to get the most out of fat for energy, add it to your diet before a sports training, not after, because it can slow down the digestion as well as the post-workout meal absorption. One hour before workout is when you need to consume fat for sports nutrition.
Recommendation: Cook eggs in coconut oil or butter or add nut butter, avocado butter or coconut oil in your pre-exercise snack. You may also have grass-fed lamb or beef and avoid food groups containing refined sugar. Limit fat to less than five grams, in pre- and post-workout meals to avoid slowing down protein digestion you need for your muscle during workout as well as blood flow to it.
How much to take - Under five grams (preworkout and post-workout meals)
You need to consume protein a couple of hours before training and exercise because it helps increase and maintain muscle size, especially among those who want to improve muscle composition, performance and health.
Protein is also vital in reducing muscle damage as well as preventing them from being further damaged due to intense activities. It also floods your system with amino acids during training, boosting your muscle-building and performance capabilities.
How much protein to take - 0.8 to 1.2 gram per kilo of bodyweight per day.
Vitamins/Minerals That May Help During Exercise
Micronutrients are as important as macronutrients for exercise and training for competition. They play different roles when it comes to energy metabolism, especially during intense and muscle-fatiguing physical activities. They may also help in increasing energy turnover in the skeletal muscles by up to 100 x the resting rate.
Not supplementing with vitamins and minerals that may help in exercise might result from increased losses and increased turnover rate, requiring an increased dietary intake. Athletes, in particular, have to pay attention to their micronutrient intake, and the following may help.
B Vitamins (Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin, Folate, Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Niacin, Biotin, Vitamin B12)
B vitamins supply and boost energy production and repair/building of muscle tissue. During exercise, B vitamins help in energy production, while vitamin B12 and folate aids in red blood cell production, repair and maintenance of tissues and protein synthesis.
You need it for calcium absorption, bone health and serum calcium and phosphorus level regulation. It also plays a role in the nervous system and skeletal muscle’s homeostasis. For example, figure skaters and gymnasts living at northern latitudes and training indoors are at a high risk to vitamin D deficiency, which is why they need to consume vitamin D fortified foods.
Β-Carotene, Selenium, Vitamins C and E
These are the antioxidant vitamins, which protect the cell membranes from free radical damage as well as oxidative damage. Remember that training increases your body’s oxygen consumption by up to 15 times, producing oxidative stress on the cells, particularly in the muscle cells that will eventually lead to membrane peroxidation.
Vitamin C deficiency or marginal supply thereof will compromise your athletic performance; thus, you need an increased supply of it. For example, if you’re participating in prolonged exercise, you need to consume up to 1000 mg of vitamin C to prevent low performance.
Magnesium, Zinc, Iron and Calcium
These are the main minerals lacking among female athletes and among those limiting the animal food product intake an energy restriction. These minerals are important for repair and maintenance of tissues. For example is calcium, which aids in growth, muscle contraction regulation, normal blood clotting and nerve conduction.
Iron, on the other hand, aids in forming oxygen-carrying myoglobin, proteins and hemoglobin. Oxygen carrying is a big help for endurance athletes, as it helps them normalize the function of immune system and nervous system.
Another important mineral is zinc that helps in muscle building and repair as well as growth. It also improves immune system and energy production.
Magnesium helps in cellular metabolism and controls hormonal and immune functions. Finally is potassium that aids in balancing electrolyte and fluids in the body. It also works for active transport mechanisms and nerve transmission.
If you want to take your training, workout, or game to the next level, these supplements will help. Add this to your proper pre-workout nutrition and watch your results skyrocket.
It is a potent source of all the nutrients an athlete needs – vitamins and minerals, amino acids and protein. It may also help in preventing delayed-onset muscle soreness after training.
Studies suggest, according to Peak Performance, that antioxidants improve the body’s adaptive response in the damage caused by exercise through increase immune cells that aid in muscle repair. It also has high levels of silica, magnesium and calcium to promote bone health, reducing fracture risk among athletes. It also boosts metabolism and promotes cell thermogenesis.
The best thing about it – it is stimulant-free! [Stimulants tear your body down and increase inflammation].
It improves athletic performance and takes stamina to the next level. According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2010), supplementing with Cordyceps sinensis contributed to wellness and improved exercise performance.
With its adenosine content, it aids in the production of ATP with which higher production will lead to higher endurance level. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology discovered that higher ATP production helped in keeping up with intense exercise – and prolonging the time that athletes could stay consistently active.
This supplement improves power, strength and recovery as well as decreases lactate levels during an intense workout. It also improves muscle recovery time for athletes participating in hill training and sprints. A study found those cyclists’ peak power improved by 3.4% and power by 9.6% after loading with creatine.
It delays fatigue and improve performance during intense physical activities. If you’re an athlete engaged in race pace, tempo runs and lifting, you’ll benefit from its supplementation. Several studies were in fact conducted and found out its positive effects on cycling performance as well as rowing times. (Baguet, A, et al, 2010; Jordan, T et al, 2010)
For endurance and boosted performance, caffeine is what you may need. It has been proven effective for endurance performance, including cross-country skiing and cycling. It may also increase fat oxidation for weight management. Take it about an hour prior to a race for power in marathons.
While it’s considered as a diuretic, University of Connecticut (Storrs) researchers suggested that its consumption doesn’t reduce exercise heat tolerance or electrolyte-water imbalance.
Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, thiamin, riboflavin and folate helps in converting sugars and proteins into energy as well as are used in repairing and producing cells.
According to researcher Melinda Manore of the Colleges of Agricultural and Health and Human Sciences, lack of these nutrients might affect the body’s ability in repairing itself, fighting disease and operating efficiently, especially among active individuals.
Additionally, Oregon State University researchers concluded that deficiency on these vitamins also decreased performance and reduced muscle repair and building abilities among high-intensity performance athletes.
They contain multiple antioxidants that reduce free radical damage, keeping athletes healthier by reducing stress and damage in the cells, chlorogenic acid antioxidants in the beans could help in preventing the cancer cell proliferation, which may help athletes prevent cancer as well, according to Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2004.
For weight management, participants in a study lost about 10% of weight, based on a research presented at 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
To up your game, you need to pay close attention to sports nutrition and make sure of adequate nutrition - vitamins and minerals (micronutrients); protein, fat and carbohydrate (macronutrients); and supplements (B-alanine, creatine, maca, caffeine, green coffee beans and cordyceps). Take note of their timings and amounts to reap their total benefits, including on muscle building, performance, endurance and weight management, to name some.
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