A well-maintained diet is mandatory to provide proper sports nutrition for athletes. These diets are usually rich in proteins and vitamins and also consist of sports supplements.  

Apart from practicing daily, nutrition for athletes needs to be maintained to proper levels for maximum efficiency. Being an athlete, your active lifestyle and a balanced diet will give you the strength, skill, and endurance to give your best shot.

If you are an athlete and don’t have much clue around maintaining your lifestyle, sports nutrition, and diet at par, we’re here to guide you through it all.

An athlete’s diet is not much different from a healthy person’s diet.

But the portions of food and the amount of nutrition required by you might vary based on certain factors :

  • The type of sport. 
  • The amount of training you do.
  • Time Spent in Training and Exercise

You should also know how many calories you are using daily because it is crucial to check how much energy you intake. Further, you should always check if it’s at par with how much you expend while exercising, and keep a check on the intake of excess nutrition might put stress on your organs. 

Before you customize your diet, you should know what the daily dietary requirements for an athlete are-

  • The essential diet should be sufficient to –
  • Meet your energy and nutrients requirements needed for daily training and exercise
  • Help in adaptation and reduce the time of recovery between training sessions.
  • Enable you to achieve the optimal range of body weight and height and the optimal fat levels for performance.
  • Include enough fluids to prevent dehydration and ensure you are constantly hydrated during and after the performance
  • Enhances short-term and long-term health of athletes.

What should your diet consist of?

As mentioned above, an athlete’s diet should not differ much from a healthy mans’ diet. It must include on an average of –

  • Carbohydrates > 55%
  • Proteins = 12-15%
  • Fat < 30%

If you are working out strenuously for more than 60 to 90 minutes every day, then you might need to increase the number of  carbohydrates in your diet to 60-70%

  • Why are all these components necessary for athletes?
  • Carbohydrates 

 The carbohydrates are broken down into glucose during digestion which acts as a primary source of energy in our body. In addition, they are stored in the form of glycogen in liver and muscle tissue, which can be converted into glucose to provide fuel during any strenuous activity. 

 If carbohydrates are restricted, then the amount of glucose in the body means that our body’s fuel gets exhausted. This can eventually lead to loss of protein, and the body will start breaking down muscle tissue to meet its energy requirements. This will expose your body to illness and infections.

Sources of carbohydrates – You can gain simple carbs from fruits, milk, and vegetables, while one can obtain complex carbs from whole-grain bread, brown rice, potatoes, oatmeal, kidney beans.

  • Proteins 

It is an essential part of an athlete’s training diet and plays a massive role post-exercise recovery and in repairing damaged tissues. In addition, it helps an athlete maintain a lean physique and optimum body weight. 

 Lack of protein can lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue, leading to cramps and might even strain connective tissues and cause irreversible damage. 

Remember, too many proteins in the diet can make it problematic for the digestive system to digest them, putting strain on the liver and kidney.

Sources of protein –  Beef, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, and often sports supplements that act as protein sources.

  • Water 

Dehydration often reduces athletic performance. Therefore, it is always advisable to avoid drinks containing sodium, potassium, zinc, and magnesium are advised to prevent cramps and, in extreme cases, death. 

  • Pre-event meal

It is an integral part of an athlete’s preparation during any event or regular practice. 

A high-carbohydrate meal three to four hours before exercise is found to give effective positive results. A small snack before two hours at any event can also be effective.

A meal consisting of proteins is most likely to cause digestional discomfort, so we advise that the meal you take must be rich in carbohydrates to prevent any kind of discomfort.

  • Eating in between exercises. 

People might consider this unnecessary, but this is highly important to increase the glucose levels in our body after 60 mins of intense workout or exercise. Therefore, we advise you to include liquid glucose solution so that the body stays hydrated and the glucose levels are up to the mark. 

You can also add cereal bars or sandwiches with white bread as a snack bite to the list of food providing nutrition for the athletes.

  • Eating post-exercise 

Again, intake of carbohydrates and fluids is necessary even after a practice session to keep your glucose levels at par. You should eat foods that will help you refill your energy like yogurt, low-fat milk, pasta, muffins, sports drinks, and others.

Using Sports Supplements As A Part Of Sports Nutrition

If you follow the tips mentioned earlier, your diet will fulfill all the needs, but some deficiencies can be fulfilled using sports supplements.

These supplements help in losing weight, building up muscles, and improving endurance. Besides, you can have your regular sports supplements for protein needed for increasing muscular strength. 

Sports supplements are also necessary because it is often impossible to have the required amount of protein from our daily lives, and the amount of protein expended is much more than the intake.

Supplements are usually taken for substituting nutrition and thereby balance the ratio of spent nutrients to nutrients. 

 Dieticians often suggest them as an add-on source of nutrition for athletes and as a part of sports nutrition. However, one should not take any kind of supplements without proper professional guidance like from a doctor or dietitian. 

With this, we wrap up our guide, and we can ensure that all the tips if appropriately followed and under correct medical guidance, will give you accurate results.

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