Nutrition and sport performance

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Whether you are planning on a marathon, obstacle run, CrossFit competition or just want to get fit, your nutrition intake will influence your sport performance. Nutrition and sport work hand in hand to help athletes reach their full potential. We are basically like a car; we can work well if we are running on the right fuel. However, it depends on the type of car how much and which fuel it needs.

Good nutrition makes it possible for the body to train intensely, assists in muscle recovery and metabolic adaptations to endurance exercise. Everybody needs a personal plan. However, the basics on macronutrients will be the same for everyone. So here we go!

Carbohydrates

First of all: do not be afraid of carbs! Especially when you want to perform in sport. However, not all carbs are great for your body. It is all about picking the right ones. There is a big difference between simple and complex carbs. Simple carbs include sugar, white pasta/rice/bread, pie and cookies and should not be taken too much in any diet.

On the other hand, complex carbs are great for your body. Think of whole wheat products, vegetables, beans, oatmeal etc. They contain more nutrients than simple carbs, are higher in fibre and you will digest them more slowly giving you energy for a longer time.

Carbs are the main source of energy for the body. The body makes glucose from carbohydrates and stores it as glycogen in the muscles. When you need energy it will be provided in the form of muscle glycogen, especially with short high-intensity sports like CrossFit, weightlifting and sprinting. If you eat enough of the right carbs, they will enhance recovery and optimise glycogen storage for the next training session. In other words: the body needs carbs in order to have the energy available to train.

Great food sources of protein:

  • Whole wheat pasta/bread
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Oatmeal/quinoa/buckwheat/amaranth
  • Brown rice

Protein

Protein is as important as carbohydrates, but it offers different benefits. It helps the body build and repair cells and tissue, and it is important for transporting molecules to defend the body against intruders.

Protein consists of amino acids, of which some the body cannot produce on its own. These are called essential amino acids and can be found in all different kinds of food. This is why it is important to have different sources of protein to get all the different essential amino acids. You will find the essential amino acids in eggs, lean meat, fish, soy beans, nuts and legumes.

Three out of nine essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are called the branched-chain amino acids or BCAA’s. They are the primary amino acids for muscle development since they are transported directly into the muscle tissues and don’t have to be metabolized by the liver first.

When performing strength- or resistance training the body needs more protein, because protein supports muscle protein synthesis, reduces muscle protein breakdown and repairs muscle damage. In other words: muscles need protein in order to repair and grow.

Great food sources of protein:

  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Cottage cheese
  • Protein Powders
  • Fish and seafood
  • Meat
  • Legumes
  • Tempeh/Tofu/Seitan
  • Nuts and seeds

Fat

Fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet, providing energy and elements of cell membranes and the body needs high-quality fats in order to use fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K). Fat also contains essential fatty acids which are necessary for the production of hormones and cell walls.

When we talk about the fat your body needs, we talk about unsaturated fatty acids. Your body does not need the saturated fats we find in fast food, fat meat like lamb, pork/poultry with skin or lard.

For endurance type activities, fats are ideal as a fuel source. However, if you eat too much fats this may have negative effects on training and competition performance.

Great food sources of protein:

  • Avocados
  • Olive Oil
  • Fat rich fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives

Conclusion

Every person needs all macronutrients. When you want to positively influence your sport performance with nutrition, you will need to adjust the amounts and sources of the macronutrients to your specific goal and body type. You can take the first step by choosing the right sources and having a balanced diet

 

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