The sport diet is for people who engage in high intensity physical activity. In sportsmen, the consequences of a poor diet can be multiple: lower performance, lack of energy, poor recovery, risk of injury and hypoglycemia, etc.
Sports nutrition must therefore meet the needs of large energy expenditures and provide all the nutrients that the body needs to perform and recover optimally.
The essential points of the sports regime:
- Focus on carbohydrates.
- Eat enough proteins.
- Limit fat intake.
- Have a good hydration.
- Choose foods according to their tolerance.
Benefits of the sports regime
The benefits of the sports regime are multiple, it allows:
- Have enough energy.
- Cover energy needs based on expenditures.
- Increase performance and endurance.
- Reduce recovery time.
- Avoid dizziness and hypoglycemia.
- Limit the risk of injury.
- Increase coordination.
- Avoid muscle wasting and anemia.
- Prevent premature aging from oxidative stress.
Sport nutrition is for athletes who practice high intensity sport sessions longer than 1 hour, more than 4 times a week. For people who have moderate physical activity (sessions of less than one hour and less than four times a week), a balanced diet and good hydration are often sufficient.
On the other hand, the exact amounts of water, carbohydrate, protein and fat depending on the type of activity and many other factors (gender, age, weight, height, etc.). It is, therefore, best to use a qualified dietician to have personalized recommendations.
- Food recommended for the athletes:
Carbohydrates have the first place in the sportsman’s meal, but they must be accompanied by good nutrients for optimal action. Thus, care must be taken to integrate the right proteins, to have the right level of hydration at the right time and to integrate enough antioxidants. Other supplements may be added if they are well chosen.
In sports nutrition, carbohydrates are the basis of food. They prevent hypoglycemia and provide energy to the body throughout the training. After ingestion, they are stored in the liver and in the muscles as glycogen. If these liver and muscle reserves are full, then we see better sports performance because glycogen is the fastest source of energy available during exercise. Carbohydrates are an integral part of sports dietetics before, during and after exercise. They must represent 55 to 60% of the total calories ingested.
Care will be taken to promote complex carbohydrates that provide energy to the body over the long term. They also make blood glucose much less variable. Fast carbohydrates (white sugar, chocolate, honey, candies, etc.), on the contrary, provide energy for a very short time and cause peaks in blood sugar. In some cases, they may be consumed during exercise or recovery.
The complex carbohydrates to be favored in the sports regime are as follows:
- Complete pasta.
- Brown rice, bulgur, whole couscous.
- Whole bread.
- Whole grains.
- Lean proteins:
Proteins must also be part of the athlete’s meals. They promote the stability of energy. They also contribute to the maintenance of tissues and muscle fibers. Many protein foods, however, contain fats that we want to avoid. We must, therefore, promote low-fat proteins in the sports diet. Here are some examples:
- Poultry without skin.
- Fish and seafood.
- Lean meats.
- Low-fat cheeses and dairy products.
- Soy milk.
Since exercise alters the mechanism of thirst, one must not wait until one is thirsty to drink. The reflex of thirst is often triggered when we are already dehydrated to 1% or 2%. At this point, our performance has already decreased by 10%.
The roles of water in the body and in the sports regime
- Water is a carrier of nutrients. It transports carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals to the sites of use.
- It also serves as a lubricant, ensuring, in particular, a smooth sliding between the different tissues (eg synovial fluid in the knee).
- It acts as a radiator by dissipating the heat produced by evaporation of sweat.
- Water prevents performance losses caused by dehydration. It maintains body temperature, provides electrolytes and carbohydrates when added, for example when taking a rehydration drink.
High intensity sport increases oxidative stress and premature aging of the body in the long term. Also, as part of sports nutrition, it is recommended to consume enough antioxidants. They are contained in the following foods:
- Red fruits.
- Goji berries and wild berries
- Kiwi, grapes, figs
- Colorful vegetables: peppers, spinach, eggplant, celery, broccoli
- Garlic, onion
- Other recommended food habits:
- Increase omega-3 intake.
- Fractional feeding.
- Home cooking.
- Foods not recommended in a sports nutrition:
In the athlete’s overall diet, no food is to be banned. However, around workouts, it will be recommended to adopt the right reflexes for a successful sports meal. Thus all foods difficult to digest or that can cause stomach discomfort should be avoided: fats, spices, coffee, etc.
Whether good or bad, it is better to limit the consumption before and during training. Lipids require a long digestion work that promotes gastric discomfort during exercise. However, in the hours following the effort, it is highly recommended to consume good fats such as olive oil, flax, rapeseed or nuts. Oleaginous and oily fish are also particularly indicated because of their high Omega-3 content.
- Foods that stimulate peristalsis:
Spices or foods that cause gas can cause stomach discomfort during exercise. They should not be part of the sport’s meal just before training. Before exercise is not the time to try new foods or choose foods that usually cause discomfort. Also, spicy or caffeinated foods can stimulate the peristalsis and make you want to go to the bathroom during the training. Reserve new foods and those that are difficult to digest or irritate the digestive tract for after exercise.
- Sports Dietetics: practical tips in everyday life:
- Do not wait to feel hungry or thirsty before drinking or eating during exercise
- Plan feeding and hydration in advance, during and around workouts
- Get help from a qualified dietician to build a personalized and adapted food plan
- In snack foods, think of oilseeds to fill up on good fats (nuts, seeds, oil butter, soy products, etc.)
To conclude, food is in fact, one of the keys to sports success. It is therefore important to follow a special sports diet for many reasons: better performance, lower risk of injury and hypoglycemia, optimization of recovery time, etc.
It is often said that food is the fuel of the body, providing the body with the proper fuel is thus a key factor to achieve an optimal athletic performance.