You may consider yourself a keen sports person, a lover of an early morning run or the master of the home HIIT workout, but do you ever wonder how your diet affects how well you perform during sports and exercise? Sports and nutrition go together hand in hand, so brushing up on your nutrition is a great way to help you progress in your sporting ventures. Here’s the lowdown on sports nutrition and why it’s so important when supporting your active lifestyle.
What is sports nutrition?
Sports nutrition, put simply, is the study or practice of nutrition and diet when aiming to improve athletic performance. You may think that being good at a certain sport, being able to lift heavy weights or having the stamina to survive a lethal HIIT session has nothing to do with diet but, you’re wrong! Yes, fitness is a huge factor, but diet is very important when trying to improve your sporting abilities.
Why is nutrition important in sport?
Nutrition is important for us all, but it is especially important for athletes or those who regularly exercise as it provides the energy required to perform their chosen activity. The food we eat impacts a variety of factors, including strength, performance and recovery. So, ensuring your diet is on point will enable you to perform your best, while also recovering properly so you can do it all again!
The meals you eat before and after exercise are vital – beforehand, it’s essential to eat foods that are going to provide you with the energy to perform, while afterwards, you need to consume foods that will replenish any lost energy, while also encouraging recovery.
What foods give you energy for sport?
It can be tough deciding what to eat ahead of exercise. Whether you’re racing around a football pitch, heading out on a 5K or planning on hitting the weights, you need to ensure your body is adequately fuelled. As you may know, carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy, so are essential before physical activity. Fruit, such as bananas, are easy, quick sources of energy that won’t fill you up too much but will provide a quick burst of energy to see you through a quick workout. Other carbs, such as oats, baked beans and energy bars, are also great pre-workout. Have them for breakfast or simply snack on them before your training – remember, always allow sufficient time for your body to digest your food before exercising.
What is an athlete’s diet?
Each athlete’s diet will vary depending on their discipline, for example, a sprinter’s diet will differ drastically to that of an Olympic weightlifters diet. But, there will definitely be a few similarities, with every athlete needing carbs for energy and protein to promote recovery and muscle growth.
Typical foods included in an athlete’s diet may include high protein staples such as chicken, oily fishes, beans and legumes, while you can also expect a whole lotta carbs – wholegrain oats, pasta and rice may accompany many meals, as well as plenty of fruits and veggies.
What are sports supplements?
Many athletes take sports supplements to enhance their performance. Many sports supplements include vitamins, amino acids and minerals. Most of these can be consumed via the food we eat however, supplements can be handy if you find it hard to obtain them via your diet – this could be due to your dietary requirements (if you’re vegan, for example), if your busy and find it hard to prepare your food or if you’re a fussy eater.
Sports supplements include protein powders, - great for those keen to pack in the protein or as an easy, on-the-go breakfast – creatine, glutamine, BCAAs and even pre-workouts, a must for those late evening HIIT workout or a heavy lifting session.
For more on sports supplements and their benefits, head over to our blog and take a read of our guide to supplements to determine which supplements you should be taking.
Do you adapt your diet to suit your training? Let us know your tips over on Instagram – we’d love to see which foods and supplements you’re loving!