What comes to your mind when you hear Sports Nutrition?
Sports Nutrition means putting specific nutritional strategies and proper dietary supplements in place to enhance a Sportsperson’s performance. It involves understanding different food components and how their consumption can affect one’s performance.
Nutrition is important for any Sportsperson because it plays a huge role in their general being and energy levels. A suitable sports nutrition diet will keep the body energized, well hydrated and functioning at optimum sports levels, thereby boosting performances, and preventing diet related diseases.
Food can be categorized into two major groups: Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Macronutrients which make up the bulk of the meals we eat, include carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Carbohydrates are energy giving foods. Glucose for example is the sole source of energy to the brain which is key for any Sportsperson. Its deficiency can cause low blood sugar translating to little or no performance on the track. Carbohydrates can be found in root tubers, grains, milk and sugars (honey and sweets).
Proteins are commonly known as the body’s building blocks. They are made up of amino acids which help the body repair cells and damaged tissues, especially after a sporting event. They provide energy when there is insufficient intake of carbohydrates which help in sustaining a lean body mass. Sources of protein include meats, grains, seeds and dairy products.
Micronutrients on the other hand include all vitamins and minerals which include vitamin A, B, C, D, E & K and minerals like calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium and iron.
Calcium for example, is a major mineral which can be obtained from food sources such as sardines (Omena), dairy products or dark green leafy vegetables. The body uses calcium in maintaining strong bones and muscle contraction. Its deficiency can cause muscle spasms or cramps, which is why Sportspersons require adequate calcium intake because they lose it through sweating.
Iron is a minor mineral which is essential in the formation of red blood cell’s structure. Sportspersons need enough iron to help transport oxygen from their lungs to the body especially during sport events. Sources of iron include dark green leafy vegetables, beetroot, liver and legumes. Its deficiency can cause iron deficiency anemia.
As a Sportsperson, all vitamins are essential for optimal performance, but in this article, the focus will be on Vitamin D. Sunlight is the main source of Vitamin D, however, small amounts can be sourced from dairy products and fatty fish. Vitamin D binds to one’s DNA to activate genes leading to protein production. These proteins are used to build muscle and bones and also for the immune system which are all important aspects for any Sportsperson.
In conclusion, eating a diet balanced in both macronutrients and micronutrients is important as one prepares for any sporting activity, during and after an event & during recovery as well. Consume the required amount of nutrients to avoid toxicity and deficiencies.
Next time we tackle ‘Fluid management and proper hydration for athletes’, stay tuned!
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