“Nutrition cannot substitute for raw talent, training, mental preparation or equipment, but bad nutrition can destroy performance.” – Stone Foundation, June 2005
Different types of sport require different types of nutritional programmes, depending on how energy is expended. For example, a sprinter has different energy usage to a long distance runner. Also, the nutritional requirements for an athlete are different at different stages of training. For example, nutrition requirements change as the athlete comes closer to competition.
Optimum performance nutrition involves fine tuning the macronutrient intake – carbohydrates, protein and fat as well as ensuring good hydration and electrolyte balance. The relative amounts of all of these have to be carefully monitored around exercise programmes and competition.
An athlete’s immune system can often tend to be compromised as excess training increases the strain on body resources, tissue repair and recovery. Immune system suppression can last up to 72 hours after exercise. The nutrients vital for the immune system can be used up, especially if the athlete is on a nutrient restrictive diet. It is important to find appropriate ways of strengthening the immune system through appropriate nutrition and supplementation.
Specific nutrients are needed in sport: Antioxidants are crucial for post-exercise recovery to regenerate tissue damage, reduce inflammation, wound healing. Specific vitamins and minerals are crucial for energy metabolism, relaxing/contracting nerve and muscle fibres, temperature control, oxygen transport around the body, growth and repair.
Specific amino acid supplements contribute to hydration and electrolyte uptake by the body, the use of fat (fatty acids) for energy, improving reflex speed, concentration, maximum capacity, recovery, muscle growth and strength, lean body mass. There are several protein powders available on the market. The pros and cons of each can be evaluated for an individual athlete. Despite the fact that amino acids (protein) are essential in preparing the athlete for competition, it is important to protect the body from too much added protein in the diet.
Optimum nutrition is paramount for athletes in combination with physical conditioning, flexibility and mental preparation.