Sports Nutrition 101
6 Essential Nutrients to Include in Your Diet
If you look at the studies on sports nutrition the actual basics of nutrition have not really changed. It is science and for those out there that are following the latest fad diet to try and gain the edge with your competition, I wonder how long it last?
The latest craze has been the “keto” diet and the studies that have been published have not yet shown that there is any benefit, if anything, you start to see performance decrease.
To create your own, sport specific food plan you must first have a sound understanding of the basics of nutrition. Once you know the basics, then you can start to look at your own specific sport and tailor it for your individual needs.
For both the professional athlete competing in their sport of choice, or an avid sports individual, the first step to customizing your food plan is understanding the seven key nutrients.
Without these key nutrients your body will not perform to maximum capacity as you train or race with any event. The importance of including all these nutrients in your diet is to maximize energy, increase performance, and give you an edge on your competition.
I mean let’s face it, if you train hard all week and head to a race or a competition on Saturday and you have not fueled your body properly then you decrease your chances of giving your body everything it needs to outperform your competition. If you are racing or putting in a lot of hours to become physically stronger and faster than you are going to want that edge.
Key Nutrient Breakdown
What they provide: energy source – important for brain
Best Source: oils, avocado, butter, olives, cream cheese, sour cream, chia/flax seed, hemp
What they provide: energy fuel, important for storage of glycogen in the liver and muscle which in turn provides energy.
Best Source: whole grains, starchy veggies, fruits, vegetables, dairy
What they provide: amino acids are the building block’s and are important to repair muscle break down.
Best Source: meat, poultry, fish, pork, eggs, dairy, soy, beans
Certain nutrients are vital for your muscles to work efficiently, and moderate to vigorous exercise increases the loss of some minerals, mostly through sweat.
The list is long but I’m going to name key vitamins for athletes which include
Key Vitamins for Athletes: iron, B-complex, vitamin C, Vitamin D, beta carotene
Key Minerals for Athletes: calcium, magnesium, potassium
What they provide: The gut microbiome plays an important role in your health by helping control digestion and benefiting your immune system and many other aspects of health. An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders. More and more research is showing that not eating a well-balanced diet can reduce an athlete’s performance due to changes in their microbiome.
Best Source: There are so many available sources for both prebiotic & probiotic food. Select the ones that you enjoy most.
This should go without saying, but water is a critical component to good nutrition and overall health. How often and how much you should hydrate depends on your body weight, sport, and heat.
There is one thing I’m clear on, if you have chosen the path to be an athlete and push your body beyond it’s normal wear and tear then you need to choose healthy options.
We all know that most athletes need carbohydrates in their diet. When they mostly choose simple carbohydrates like sugar, white rice, white pasta and junk food then it starts to fuel your cells in a way that is not building them up, it’s tearing them down. This, in turn, affects your immune system and causes low energy or ultimately injury or sickness.
Now that you understand the basics, stay tuned for the next blog on how functional medicine plays a role in supporting an athlete’s body to perform at its peak.