For an athlete, maintaining a good athletic performance all the time is quite essential. However, in order to achieve that state, you need to push your body, which also involves stressing it. And thus, your body requires time to heal so it can work optimally again. But, for a complete and fast recovery, your body needs proper nutrition from your diet. Because if your diet lacks nutrition, recovery becomes quite difficult, and it may even downgrade your current performance.
However, the question is, does nutrition really help enhance your sports performance? And, if it's true, how does nutrition affect athletic performance? Well, if we simply have to answer that question, good nutrition can surely enhance your athletic performance. However, what nutrition you need and what amount can vary from person to person. Furthermore, what sports you normally play is another key factor determining your diet's nutrition requirement.
So, let's explore the relationship between sporting performance and nutrition and try to understand what your diet's key components should be to achieve these nutrition levels. In addition, if you seek personalized nutrition to enhance your performance, you contact Apprize Medical to start it in the right way.
What Role Does Nutrition Play In An Athlete's Life?
We know eating healthy and exercising is essential for a healthy working body. However, eating healthy doesn't mean having a balanced diet, especially for an athlete. For example, suppose you're playing a sport that involves a high level of physical activity. In that case, you'll need a diet that can increase your recovery rate and also help improve your performance. First, to understand the concept of nutrition in an athlete's life, let's try to know the importance of nutrition.
In general, nutrition is highly important regarding athletes' training requirements and general health. So, to perform your sports activities, you'll need adequate energy and nutrients. In addition, this will help with meeting your exercise and training demands. Furthermore, nutrition isn't about helping you perform optimally; it also greatly enhances your recovery rate.
What an athlete need to consider while deciding their nutrition requirement are as follows:
- Firstly, the caloric requirements
- Then, macronutrient ratios and amounts
- Snack and meal timings
- Also, vitamins and minerals for better performance and recovery
And, as previously mentioned, to tailor all these factors, you as an athlete need to consider your body weight and composition, the time you spend daily training, and the type of sports you play.
A nutritious diet that considers all the above factors can optimally meet an athlete's vitamin and mineral requirements. Furthermore, a nutritious diet can offer sufficient protein to promote muscle repair and growth. And, generally, the basis of your diet will revolve around unrefined carbohydrates foods, such as cereals and whole grain breads.
Your sports nutrition plan has to be tailored to your personalized needs. The plan should consider your specific goals, sport, food preference, etc., without missing any details. Make sure you take the right help, such as Apprize Medical.
How Can Bad Nutrition Affect Athletic Performance?
Now, it may be clear to you that nutrition has a significant role in improving sports performance. However, to clarify this concept, knowing how bad nutrition can affect your performance would be better. You can face numerous drawbacks for not having proper nutrition. But, the most common one you'll experience will be a decline in your current athletic performance.
Improper nutrition can lead to the accumulation of fatigue, metabolic waste, and stress in your body. You can consult your healthcare provider if you think you're not getting proper nutrition or if you experience the following:
1. Declined Performance
When you participate in a sports event or perform your training, it is known that you'll need a lot of energy. And the source of this energy is protein, fats, and carbohydrates in your body. All these are known as macronutrients, and your diet requires them properly so you can perform your sports activity optimally. However, if your diet lacks these macronutrients, your body will be unable to perform as you want.
Furthermore, carbohydrates are the primary energy source when it comes to strength training. So, if your diet is not giving enough of that, your muscles will be forced to break down their protein so you can perform your intense training session. Understand that endurance training requires carbohydrates and fats. If your diet is lacking them, it's quite possible you'll suffer from poor performance.
2. Taking a Long Time to Recover
When you perform training or intense workout, your muscles suffer damage. However, this damage is actually good for you as it helps in forming new, stronger muscles. This leads to better muscle mass and enhanced endurance and strength. However, during this time, your muscle recovery rate matters a lot. So, after the workout session, you need to give your muscles at least 24 hours so they can recover successfully. But, if your body's nutritional demands are not met during the recovery period, it will take your muscles several days or even weeks to achieve full recovery.
3. Unexpected Weight Changes
It is completely fine if you are performing the training with the intention of changing your weight. However, if you experience unwanted or unexpected weight changes, that is quite a concerning topic. This is one of the cases of not having proper nutrition. This situation can be dangerous because you'll start losing your muscle mass as you continue training if you don't take proper precautions.
In addition, you may either loss or gain body fat quickly, which might be unhealthy for you. How fast these changes will occur will depend on your current diet, genetics, as well as training. A well-planned, nutritious diet can easily help you prevent this situation.
4. Immune Suppression
The occurrence of stress hormones is common while you perform training. In the short term, stress hormones help trigger your body's growth as well as release energy stores like body fat. However, if these levels remain high for a long time, your immune system functionality can worsen.
To deal with this situation, the best thing you can do is eat a proper diet containing enough nutrients for your body.
Factors That Affect Athletic Performance, And What Can You Do About It?
Your athletic performance depends on many factors. What you do in your day-to-day life can also impact it. Some of the common factors that affect athletic performance include:
- Health & Energy
While you can work on most of these influential factors, you cannot do much for some factors. In order to improve your sports or athletic performance, there are mainly five things you need to look at. These five factors include:
- Body proportions
- Skills training
All the factors mentioned above can affect your athletic performance in both good and bad ways. So, let's see each of these factors and try to understand how they can influence your sports performance.
1. Body Proportions
Well, body proportions are something you cannot control as an athlete. Here, your genetics will play a key role in deciding your proportions. Whether you'll be tall or short, or your hands will be big or small, all these things will be decided by your genetics. If you're not tall enough, you might not be able to build your career as a professional basketball player. However, height is only a part of body proportions, and it has many other things to consider too.
For example, bone structure is another part of body proportions affecting athletic performance. If you possess a narrow body frame naturally, your muscle mass will not be much. However, you'll surely have that flexibility to help you in your particular sports. Your body proportions may limit your performance in some specific sports. But, if you practice enough, you might be able to ace some sports that suit your proportions.
Whatever sports you play, strength training is always involved in it. This training plays a significant role in enhancing your overall athletic performance. Regular strength training can help prevent injuries to tendons, muscles, bones, and ligaments. In addition, with more strength, you can easily absorb the impacts that commonly occur in sports and prevent injury too.
Furthermore, if you have better and stronger muscles, you'll be more effective in holding your position. Also, you will be able to perform repetitive moments for a long period without struggling much. Strength training can also help improve your jumping height, length, and running speed. How much strength you have can affect your sports performance. Therefore, make sure to perform enough strength training to perform optimally in your sports.
You can achieve higher endurance levels by performing repetitive movements in your sports. So, you should enroll in an endurance program where you can mimic the actions of your particular sports. If your sports involve lots of running, it's important you run daily for a set amount to build your endurance during matches. Furthermore, performing daily sets of jumping and other exercises can also help build your endurance. By improving your endurance factor, you can significantly improve your athletic performance.
There are many ways to improve flexibility, and one should perform those activities as it helps enhance their sports performance. Some ways to improve flexibility include:
- Dynamic stretching
- Self-myofascial release
- Active stretching
- Static stretching
One of the primary reasons to increase flexibility is to help prevent injury, as better flexibility allows muscles to stretch more. If your body has lower flexibility, there are high chances you will suffer an injury that can lower your athletic performance. Make sure you work toward the flexibility factor to increase your overall performance.
5. Skills Training
The last factor we have that can affect your sports performance is skills training. This training involves practicing your particular sport, which will help improve your skills. Suppose you master all the other factors that can affect your performance. However, that will not make you good in your sports unless you have the skills to play it.
Every sport requires different skill sets, so a sportsperson cannot be good at every sport. Getting proper training from the right person can help you build your skills in your specific sports. Things like body position, motor skills, rhythm, coordination, timing, etc., all matter to improve performance. Make sure you spend enough time practicing your sports.
How to Improve Athletic Performance? Balancing Nutrition for Greater Athletic Performance
So, now we know why nutrition matters for athletic performance and what factors can affect your sports performance. In the previous section, we discussed what you can physically do in order to get better at your sports. However, you will definitely struggle to achieve your goals if you don't have the energy in your body. And you need to have enough nutrients in your diet to satisfy your body's energy needs.
So, let's look at your body's requirements for macronutrients, micronutrients, hydration, etc., to understand what you need in your diet to improve athletic performance.
So, firstly, we need to look into the optimal macronutrient ratios that are recommended for adults. As per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the suggested ratio is as follows:
- Carbohydrates: 45% to 65% of calories
- Fat: 20% to 35% of calories
- Protein: 10% to 35% of calories
However, this ratio isn't something you must stick with. Even ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) suggests that individuals can change these ratios depending on their physical activities. So, suppose you are part of a sport that needs regular running, jumping, etc. In that case, you can adjust these ratios so your body can get enough energy to perform these physical activities.
If we consider an example, a strength athlete will obviously need more protein intake to function optimally in their sports. While on the other hand, endurance athletes will need more carbohydrates in their diet to enhance their athletic performance.
According to ISSN, the recommended ratio of macronutrient for athletes are as follows:
Every athlete's diet must have some particular amount of carbohydrates as it is a major energy source in the body. This macronutrient is a vital part of sports nutrition and has a significant role in improving sports performance.
Athletes usually prefer carbohydrates as an energy source, especially when performing long-duration and high-intensity exercise. However, athletes generally require different amounts of carbohydrates to maintain muscle and liver glycogen stores. In addition, the demand for this micronutrient majorly depends on their exercise amount.
Moderate Intense Training: This is defined as performing intense training daily, two to three hours, for a period of five to six days every week. For this, ISSN recommends having five to eight grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. So this means having 250g to 1200g of carbohydrates daily for athletes weighing between 50 and 150 kg.
High Volume Intense Training: This is defined as performing intense training daily, three to six hours every day for at least two times for a period of five to six days every week. For this, ISSN recommends consuming eight to ten grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. So this means having 400g to 1500g of carbohydrates daily for athletes between 50 kg to 150 kg.
So, if you are an athlete weighing 150 kg, you must consume 1200g to 1500g of carbohydrates for high-volume intense training.
Some examples of healthy carbohydrate sources include whole grains, like oats, pasta, brown rice, and quinoa. Furthermore, you can add starchy vegetables to your diet, like potatoes.
For an athlete, fats are essential as they help maintain bodily processes like neurotransmitter function and hormone metabolism. In addition, fats can work as a concentrated energy source for sports with high energy demands.
The ISSN suggests that athletes should have a moderate amount of fat intake. So, according to them, you need to consume 30% of your daily calories. But, if you need to perform high-volume training, you can increase the consumption amount to 50% of daily calories.
On the other hand, if you want to lower your body fat, you can decrease the consumption to 20% of daily calories. In some cases, athletes choose a ketogenic diet as it is a great source of fats. But, according to ISSN, there isn't enough data to support this diet's effectiveness.
Some examples of healthy fat sources include avocados, oily fish, seeds, olive oil, and nuts.
Protein is another major part of sports nutrition. Its primary role involves providing essential amounts of amino acids to your body so you can recover and build new tissues and muscles faster.
Athletes are suggested to consume double the daily protein recommended for an average adult. According to data, adult females should consume around 46 g of protein daily. Meanwhile, for adults, the recommended daily protein intake is 56 g. So, for an athlete, the daily consumption will be double this amount, meaning 92 g of protein for females and 122 g for males, respectively.
Consuming large amounts of proteins is good for athletes as it can help avoid slow recovery and protein catabolism. Also, not having enough protein in your body as an athlete can make you prone to injuries as well as muscle wasting.
Furthermore, if you're going for moderate intense training, your recommended protein consumption will be between 1.2 g/kg to 2.0 g/kg of your body weight daily. So this means if you're an athlete weighing between 50 kg and 150 kg, you should eat 60 g to 300 g of protein daily.
On the other hand, the ISSN recommends having 1.7 g to 2.2 g of protein for every kg of your body weight daily for high levels of intense training. So, this roughly comes around 85g to 330 g of daily protein consumption for athletes who weigh between 50 kg to 150 kg.
Some of the healthy protein sources you can include in your diet are as follows:
- Seeds and nuts
- Poultry and lean meat
- Soy, including tempeh and tofu
- Seafood and fish
- Lentils and beans
- Dairy products and eggs
Micronutrients, Hydration, and Supplements
So, from the above section, we can conclude that the essential macronutrients that every athlete needs to improve their athletic performance are carbohydrates, fat, and protein. However, athletes must also have enough micronutrients in their diet to maintain good performance.
So, as an athlete, you need to ensure that you have essential vitamins and minerals in your diet. Because having these micronutrients in your diet can help support your overall health as well as sports performance. You can fulfill your body's needs for vitamins and minerals by eating a variety of balanced diets.
However, in some cases, athletes choose to consume vitamin or mineral supplements. In addition, a few athletes go for ergogenic aids, like creatine. But, ISSN suggests that athletes should confirm manufacturers' claims and scientific evidence before taking these dietary supplements.
There isn't enough evidence that can support the safety or efficacy of these dietary supplements, such as:
- Adenosine 5’-triphosphate
- Phosphatidic acid
- Branched-chain amino acids
But, there is some evidence in which scientists have stated that ergogenic aids, like creatine monohydrate and caffeine, are effective and safe for athletes. Although these supplements are safe, you must remember that a few athletic associations ban some nutritional supplements.
Now, other than dietary supplements, you should also watch out for maintaining your hydration levels. ISSN and many nutrition experts believe that losing 2% of your body weight through sweat can certainly affect your athletic performance.
And to understand the importance of hydration here, the sweat you lose is a combination of electrolytes and fluids, like potassium and sodium. So, as an athlete, you can choose to have sports drinks and milk to meet your body's hydration requirements.
Going For Sufficient Calories
As mentioned, a consistent energy source is essential for athletes. And calories work toward providing you with enough energy so you can successfully finish your exercise session or physical activities.
According to ISSN, athletes who perform intense training for around two to six hours every day for five to six days per week may burn over 600 to 1200 calories for an hourly workout session.
Because of this significant calorie loss, athletes in these intense training sessions need 40 to 70 calories for every 1 kg of their body weight daily. This is quite different from an average active person that usually needs 25 to 35 calories for every 1 kg of their weight daily.
The ISSN suggests that athletes weighing between 50 and 100 kg may need 2000 to 7000 calories daily. Additionally, athletes who weigh 100 kg to 150 kg may require 6000 calories to 12000 calories per day to meet their training requirements.
Choosing The Right Meal Timing
As an athlete, you also need to observe your snacks and meal timings, as it matters to improve your sports performance. What your meals contain and at what time you have it can be a deciding factor for many things, such as:
- Matching your training goals
- Experiencing lower fatigue
- Having optimized body composition
Now, the amount of nutrition you need and deciding when you should eat it can vary based on what type of sports you play. The ISSN suggests that strength athletes should have protein and carbohydrates four hours before and two hours after exercise.
In addition, ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) emphasizes the importance of having protein for strength athletes before and after exercise.
On the other hand, for endurance athletes, the recommended macronutrient is carbohydrates and a small portion of protein which they should have one to four hours before exercise. In this, both ACSM and ISSN have given the importance of having the right meal timing. So, to improve your athletic performance and for a fast recovery rate, it is recommended to have nutrient intake every three to fours of the day.
However, in a few cases, at least one may experience digestive discomfort because of exercising after not waiting for enough time after having a meal. Therefore, you must ensure you eat an appropriate amount and avoid exercising too early after eating.
Tailoring Your Nutrition Requirements With The Help Of Apprize Medical
As previously mentioned, athletes' nutritional requirements can vary based on their sports. Therefore, it can be confusing for an athlete to decide which diet is most suitable. However, worry not, as Apprize Medical's sports nutritionist can guide you. Our healthcare providers use various methods such as glucose monitoring, gut microbiome analysis, and blood profiling to confirm your body's nutritional changes.
We use cutting-edge technologies to meet your diet needs for whatever sports you play. Our professionals recommend diets with enough nutrients and calories to optimize your recovery and performance and maintain your body weight. Furthermore, we help you choose meal times that suit your body, schedule, and sport. To schedule a meeting with our experienced nutritionist, call us at +1-305-851-2132. You can also reach out to us using our contact form.