Sports nutrition is a broad field that involves the study and understanding of how an athlete’s body uses nutrients during training and competition as well as the use of the right nutrition and supplements to improve performance. Other vital aspects of sports nutrition include the education and monitoring of athletes.
Sports nutrition can be applied to any kind of organized physical activity or athletic training. Examples of sports and activities where sports nutrition is applied include: bodybuilding, weight-lifting, wrestling, sprints, long-distance running, cycling, team sports, martial arts and yoga.
Benefits of Sports Nutrition
Effective Preparation of Athletes
- Sports nutrition helps athletes to ensure that they take the optimum amount of important nutrients such as vitamins, water, protein, healthy carbohydrates and essential fatty acids. This will help them to train effectively and boost their performance.
High Performance during Events
- Athletes that have been given proper sports nutrition will be able to perform better than those who have not paid proper attention to their diet. For instance, sports nutrition helps athletes to maintain the right amount of water through effective daily rehydration techniques.
Quick and Full Recovery
- Sports nutrition helps the body to recover fully from the pains and strains of training or competition. Fatigue will be reduced significantly. Proper sports nutrition will also ensure that the right amount of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are supplied to various parts of the body to replace worn out tissues.
Provision of Adequate Nutritional Information
- Athletes who pay attention to sports nutrition will be well informed about the precise amount of each nutrient or supplement required to build up their bodies for peak performance during competitions. They will also be aware of the dangers involved in the abuse of supplements and learn how to avoid overeating to prevent gaining excessive fat or getting type 2 diabetes.
Reduce the Occurrence of Injury
- When adequate nutrients and supplements are taken by athletes, their ligaments, tissues and muscles will function better and encounter less fatigue. And this will reduce the frequency and possibility of injury.
Different Forms of Sports Nutrition
Sports Nutrition and Vitamins:
Vitamins help the body to produce energy from the food taken by the athlete. Important vitamins required by athletes include:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – helps to break down carbohydrates and enhances the release of energy from carbohydrates and protein.
- Vitamin B2 – boosts energy production and aids the formation of red blood cells Niacin – supports aerobic and anaerobic performance.
- Vitamin B6 – aids several metabolic reactions in the body including production of hemoglobin and energy. Insufficient amount of this vitamin will hamper performance significantly
- Vitamin B12 - essential for formation of red blood cells and helps to take oxygen to body tissues. Since vitamin B12 is only found in animal tissues, it is vital for vegetarian athletes to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Other essential vitamins include: vitamin C, folic acid, biotin and pantothenic acid.
Sports Nutrition and Supplements
Here are some popular supplements that have been recommended by sports nutritionists:
- Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) Supplements containing valine, isoleucine, and leucine are usually recommended to support endurance activity and boost the body's immune system.
- Caffeine – helps to burn fat and makes athletes feel energized
- Creatine – a supplement found in muscles. It is recommended because it increases lean body mass, boosts strength, aids recovery, and enhances short term high intensity exercise performance
Sports nutrition plays a vital role in enhancing the health and performance of athletes. Hence all athletes should pay close attention their nutritional needs and take full advantage of the services and recommendations of professional sports nutritionists.