Sports nutrition is a very highly regarded field of modern sports medicine, which helps athletes to keep their bodies in good condition before, after and during exercise, so as to achieve the optimal performance. In that sense, different nutrients are explored for their potential to optimize athletic performance, especially when engaged in high-intensity sports which involve repetitive activity.
Therefore a competent sports nutritionist must have adequate command over such disciplines as nutrition, including the biochemistry of nutrients and the way they are metabolized during intensive physical activity, exercise physiology and how an athlete’s body differs from the average non-athlete’s in terms of functional performance and resting metabolism, as well as psychological aspects of sports.
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Important Areas in Sports Nutrition
Sports nutrition is a fast-growing area of research and practice. Some important areas covered in sports nutrition include:
- How protein utilization in the body is affected by exercise
- The timing and composition of meals in relation to their best anabolic response in the athlete
- How essential are the essential amino acids
- The role and use of carbohydrates in sports activities
- How beneficial is ribose in the performance of high-intensity athletics and sports
- How important is creatine in sports
- Proper hydration in athletic activity and its influence on athletic performance
Protein is important for the athlete, and thus the recommended intake is from 1.2 to 1.6 g/kg, depending on whether the focus is on strength or endurance. Moreover, meal timing makes a big difference on the amount of protein actually incorporated into the body, which can affect how new muscle mass is created by exercise (which is also known as lean body mass).
Again, a small amount of amino acids in the right ratio and of the right types can be timed correctly, such as just before or just after a session of endurance exercise or weight-building, in order to ensure that protein building is maximal. The observed gain is thus greater rather than that achieved with just exercise alone.
Sports Nutrition in Young Athletes
Nutrition in young athletes is equally worthy of attention. This is because it allows equivalent attention to be paid to their growth in the critical growing-up years, as well as to their performance and skill. It is important to provide a balanced diet with all the required macronutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids, as well as vitamins and minerals. Fluids are also essential. These young athletes should be advised on what and when to eat and drink in relation to sports activity.
Creatine is a nutrient which has been in the limelight for quite some years. It is termed an ergogenic aid, and is thought to provide a much-needed energy boost. Creatine supplements are thought to improve the power of muscle contraction at maximal contraction. Another strategy to achieve this includes the use of dietary ribose, a pentose sugar which is involved in carbohydrate metabolism in the body.
Muscle strength and growth are both optimized by careful balancing the intake of proteins and carbohydrates. In addition, the right amounts of calcium, iron, vitamin D, and fluids need to be worked out in relation to the type of activity. This kind of guidance will help prevent damage and improve the strength and size of the muscles, as well as help the athlete achieve the best performance.
Reviewed by: Dr Tomislav Meštrović, MD, PhD