What Sports Nutrition Might Bring in The Future?
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What Sports Nutrition Might Bring in The Future?

Sayali Naik

How much do you know about sports nutrition? What and when you eat can affect your performance and how you feel while you're exercising. Giving importance to sports nutrition basics can help you make the most of your exercise routine.

Sports nutrition is a subject of constant change and has grown as a dynamic field of the clinical study. Research continues to advise improved nutritional guidelines and support for both active adults and competitive athletes. Science recognizes sports nutrition and energy intake as the “cornerstone of the athlete’s diet.”

Sports nutrition focuses on good eating habits all the time. Of course, sports nutrition goes beyond simply what you eat. When you eat is important, too. To maximize your workouts, coordinate your meals, snacks, and drinks. Drink fluids such as water during and between meals.

What Is Sports Nutrition?

Sports nutrition is the foundation of athletic success in which a well-designed nutrition plan is made that allows active adults and athletes to perform at their best. It supplies the right food type, energy, nutrients, and fluids to keep the body well hydrated and functioning at peak levels. A sports nutrition diet may vary day to day, depending on specific energy demands and other aspects of the game.

The Goal of Sports Nutrition

Competitive athletes and fitness freaks turn to sports nutrition to help them achieve their fitness and performance goals. Examples of individual goals could include gaining lean mass, improving body composition, or enhancing athletic performance, etc.

These sport-specific scenarios require different nutritional programs and the process is different for all individuals. Research findings indicate the right food type, caloric intake, nutrient timing, fluids, and supplementation are essential and specific to each individual. The following are different states of training and competitive sport benefiting from sports nutrition:

Eating for Exercise/Athletic Performance

Research shows a balanced diet plan should include sufficient calories and healthy macronutrients to optimize athletic performance in tandem with the training programs. The body will use carbohydrates or fats as the main energy source, depending on exercise intensity and duration. Inadequate caloric intake can impede athletic training and performance.

  • Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for an active adult or competitive athlete and the needs in a daily diet can range from 45 to 65 percent of total food intake depending on physical demands.
  • Proteins are responsible for muscle growth and recovery in the active adult or athlete of which the protein requirements can vary significantly ranging from 0.8g to 2g per kilogram of body weight per day.
  • Fats help maintain energy balance, regulate hormones, and restore muscle tissue. Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids that are especially important to a sports nutrition diet. Research findings recommend an athlete consume approximately 30 percent of their total daily caloric intake as a healthy fat.

Eating for Endurance

Endurance events are defined as one to three hours per day of moderate to high-intensity exercise. High-energy intake in the form of carbohydrates is essential. According to research, target carbohydrate consumption for endurance athletes ranges from 6g to 10g per kilogram of body weight per day. Endurance athletes are more at risk for dehydration. Replacing electrolyte fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat are necessary for peak performance.

Eating for Strength

Resistance training programs are designed to gradually build the strength of skeletal muscle which is high-intensity work sometimes. It requires sufficient amounts of all macronutrients & micronutrients for muscle development. Protein intake is especially vital to increase and maintain lean body mass weight.

Eating for Competition

Athletic goals will determine the best sports nutrition strategy. Pre and post-workout meal planning are unique for each athlete and essential for optimal performance. For example, strength athletes strive to increase lean mass and body size for their sport. Endurance runners focus on reduced body weight/fat for peak body function during their event.

Hydration and Sports Performance

Adequate hydration and electrolytes are essential for health and athletic performance. We all lose water throughout the day, but athletes lose additional body water (and a significant amount of sodium) sweating during intense workouts.

Dehydration is the process of losing body water, and fluid deficits greater than 2 percent of body weight can compromise the athletic performance and cognitive function. Athletes are recommended to use fluid replacement strategies as part of their sports nutrition to maintain optimal body functioning. Rehydration with water and sports drinks containing sodium are often consumed depending on the athlete and sporting events. Lack of sufficient hydration for athletes may lead to the following:

Supplements in Sports Nutrition

Sports supplements are unregulated products marketed to enhance athletic performance..” There are limited supplements backed by clinical research. The Australian Institute of Sport has provided a general guide ranking sports performance supplements and foods according to the significance of scientific evidence:

Sports Nutrition for Special Populations and Environments

Sports nutrition covers a wide spectrum of needs for athletes. Certain populations and environments require additional guidelines and information to enhance athletic performance.

  • Vegetarian athlete: A vegetarian diet can be nutritionally adequate, but insufficient evidence exists on long-term vegetarianism and athletic performance. Dietary assessments are recommended to avoid deficiencies and to ensure adequate nutrients to support athletic demands.
  • High altitude: Specialized training and nutrition are required for athletes training at high altitude. Foods high in antioxidants and protein are essential. Fluid requirements will vary per athlete, and hydration status should be individually monitored.
  • Hot environments: Athletes competing in hot conditions are at greater risk of heat illness. Fluid and electrolyte balance is crucial for these athletes. Hydration strategies are required to maintain peak performance while exercising in the heat.
  • Cold environments: Primary concerns for athletes exercising in the cold are adequate hydration and body temperature. Appropriate foods and fluids that can withstand cold temperatures will promote optimal athletic performance.

Special Topics in Sports Nutrition

Eating disorders in athletes are not uncommon. Chronic competitive pressure can create psychological and physical stress of the athlete leading to disordered eating habits. Without proper counseling, adverse health effects may eventually develop. The most common eating disorders among athletes may include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia
  • Compulsive exercise disorder
  • Orthorexia

​Obviously, the nutritional needs of these individuals greatly differ from that of other active adults or athletes.

Micronutrient deficiencies are a concern for active adults and athletes. Exercise stresses important body functions where micronutrients are required. Research indicates the most common micronutrient deficiencies include:

  • Iron deficiency: can impair muscle function and compromise athletic performance
  • Vitamin D deficiency: can result in decreased bone strength and reduced muscle metabolic function
  • Calcium deficiency: can impair the repair of bone tissue, decrease the regulation of muscle contraction, and reduce nerve conduction.

Roles of a Sports Dietitian

Athletes and active adults are seeking guidance from sports professionals to enhance their athletic performance. Sports dietitians are increasingly hired to develop nutrition and fluid programs catered to the individual athlete or teams. Sports dietitians should have knowledge in the following areas:

  • Clinical nutrition
  • Nutrition science
  • Exercise physiology
  • Evidence-based research
  • Safe and effective nutrition assessments
  • Sports nutrition guidance
  • Counseling for health and athletic performance
  • Medical nutrition therapy
  • Design and management of effective nutrition strategies
  • Effective nutrition programming for health, fitness, and optimal physical performance

The field of sports nutrition is emerging due to the growing importance of eating right for good performance and to have a healthy lifestyle.
What Sports Nutrition Might Bring in The Future?
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