Nutrition and Athletic Performance

It’s heavily documented that Nutrition can help enhance athletic performance.

A good diet can provide you with the energy you need to perform at an optimum level. Let’s be clear you are more likely to be tired and perform poorly during sports when you have not consumed enough: 

  • Calories
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fluids
  • Iron, vitamins, and other minerals
  • Protein

RECOMMENDATIONS

The ideal diet for an athlete isn’t actually that different from the diet recommended for any healthy person. The only noteworthy things to consider will be the following:

  • Your preferred Sport / Exercise
  • Your training content (Running / Swimming / Cycling)
  • Your training volume (Time spent doing the Activity or Exercise)

Calorie burn per workout is often overestimated, even when using a fitness tracking device. Wave Sport and Fitness recommend using your workout output (calories burned) as an approximation. Likewise, do the same with your energy input after all when expending large amounts of energy it is important to ensure your body’s daily calorie demands are met.

To enhance performance, avoid exercising on an empty stomach. Because everyone is different, we recommend you learn the following:

  • How long before exercising is best for you to eat?
  • How much food is the right amount for you?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this, just simply what works best for you, something you will learn over time.

CARBOHYDRATES (Carbs)

Stored in mainly in the muscles and liver, we use Carbohydrates as fuel during exercise. 

  • Complex Carbohydrates are found in foods such as pasta, whole grain breads and rice. They provide energy, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They often tend to be low in fat. If you are looking for inspiration our resident weight training enthusiast would recommend Cream of Rice (Tapioca Pudding), Ground Rice, Gluten Free Oats or Simply some Cereal (Rice Krispies or Cocoa Pops. NB. Other cereals are available)
  • Simple Sugars, such as soft drinks, jam and sweets are calorie dense, but provide very little in the way of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

That said the most important aspect of Carbs is the total amount you consume each day. A little more than half of your calories should come from carbohydrates.

Wave Sport and Fitness recommend you eat carbs before you exercise if you plan on being active for more than an hour.

You could simply have glass of orange juice, a small yoghurt (245 grams) or an English muffin with jam on it. I would suggest having a small meal of around 40g carbs (male) 25g Carbs (female) 30-60 minutes pre training.  The rule of thumb here is to limit the amount of fat you consume in the hour before an athletic event.

You’ll also need carbs during exercise if you will be doing more than an hour of intense aerobic exercise.

You can satisfy this need by having:

  • 150-300 ml of a sports drink every 15-20 minutes
  • 50g Cyclic dextrin powder mixed with water and a good EAA powder mixed with 1 lite of water
  • Handful of Jelly babies
  • 2-3 Jaffa cakes

After exercise, you need to eat carbs to rebuild the stores of energy in your muscles if you are working out heavily. 

  • People who exercise or train for more than 90 minutes should eat or drink more carbs, possibly with protein. There is a magical time post workout we refer to as “Power Hour”. Aim to consume something within that 1-2 hour window. Good examples would be having around 30g of a good quality whey isolate due to its fast absortion with a fast releasing sugary low-fat carb source like a Breakfast Cereal or Bagels & Jam.
  • For 60 minute or less workouts, water is most often all that is needed.

PROTEIN 

Protein is important for muscle growth and repair, but can also be used by the body for energy, however, only after your carbohydrate stores have been used up. But, it’s also a myth that a high-protein diet will promote muscle growth.

  • Only strength training and exercise will change muscle.
  • Athletes, even body builders, need only a little bit of extra protein to support muscle growth. Athletes can easily meet this need by increasing total overall calorie intake (yes, by simply eating more food).

Too much protein in the diet:

  • Will be stored as Body Fat
  • Can increase the chance for Dehydration
  • Can lead to Loss of Calcium
  • Can put an added burden on the Kidneys

WATER AND OTHER FLUIDS

The human body is made up of 60% water. The muscles and kidneys themselves are approx. 80% water, so it should come as no surprise that water is the most important, yet overlooked, nutrient for athletes. Water and fluids are essential to keep the body hydrated and at the right temperature. Your body can lose several litres of sweat in an hour of vigorous exercise. Clear urine is a good sign that you have fully rehydrated.

Here are some ideas for keeping bodily fluids topped up: 

  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids with every meal, regardless of whether or not you will be exercising.
  • Try to drink at least a litre of water 2 hours before a workout.
  • Consume water & electrolyte powder / coconut water during and after you exercise, approx. 120 – 240ml of fluid every 15 - 20 minutes. We recommend water for the first hour, switching to an energy drink after that can potentially help you get enough electrolytes.
  • Try to drink even when you no longer feel thirsty.

On a separate note we recommend offering children water often during sports activities. Children tend not to respond to thirst in the same way as adults.

Teenagers and adults should replace any body weight lost during exercise with an equal amount of fluids. For every 450 grams you lose whilst exercising, you should drink 500 - 700 ml of fluid within the next 6 hours.

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