When we think of sports nutrition, we are often greeted by thoughts of the nutritional requirements for athletes and sports men and women. But is the nutrition that is required for a sports player that far amiss from that required for the normal individual? I would say yes, and no. I think it depends on how you look at nutrition. Sports nutrition usually focuses on the amount and quantities of certain macro nutrients to enable an individual to perform at their best, on and off the sports field. Straight off the bat someone that plays sport will need lots more food to provide for the sheer level of activity, and an increase in certain food sources at certain times.
Playing sport demands that an individual must perform at their peak 100% of the time. This is where the elements of sports nutrition play its role, in providing nutrition to the working muscles at those crucial times, before, during and after competition. Without the above taken into account we are likely limiting the level of performance an individual can achieve in their sport by not providing the right nutrition at the right time. That said, sheer calorie volume plays a pivotal role.
The body has a certain amount of calories a day it needs to perform at its best, that’s even before you can think about nutrition for sport. Let’s say you need 2000 calories a day just to get by in your daily living, yet you are training for football six times a week and are burning around 500 calories a time. This means you are only giving your body 1500 calories over the course of a day, which is not enough. Sports nutrition would quickly rectify this simply by adding an extra meal into your daily regime. The amount of calories you consume a day is a basic requirement, without this we cannot get technical with sport nutrition strategies as the real basics are not in place first. In this case we need to simply eat more.
With the above being said, and calories being in check, sport nutrition would then look to conveniently time the intake of carbohydrate, protein and fat into the daily diet to optimise their effects. In sports nutrition we look to optimise the use of carbohydrates and protein use in and around exercise, whereas at other times we look to utilise fat to optimise the hormonal environment. Hormones are often overlooked in the realm of sports nutrition as we tend to focus on muscles and energy production, but the hormones are the master regulators of the body.
The anabolic and catabolic process is a well understood concept in sports nutrition, which is often talked about post exercise, but what about the rest of the time with manipulating hormones like testosterone and cortisol? These two hormones are some of the major influences as to how a person will respond to a training session, without an optimised environment the person may come away being worse off and having too much to recover from. Fats such as saturated fat go a long way in hormone manipulation, so never think that sports nutrition is all about protein and carbohydrates, it is just as much about fat as well, but the right fat.