For many, sport and nutrition belong together – and that is also well-founded. A targeted diet does not make you a world champion or Olympic champion. Still, in the end, it can mean the millisecond to the podium or the extra centimeters for the gold medal for high-performance athletes.
Even recreational athletes can effectively influence their performance and regeneration with a balanced and healthy diet. Food supplements are often used, and special preparations are advertised a lot, especially in weight training. In principle, every healthy athlete can cover his macro and micronutrient needs with a healthy, wholesome, and balanced diet.
Special Features Of Sports Nutrition
You should start every training session and every competition with optimal energy, nutrient, and fluid balance to maximize your physical and mental health and your performance. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) also recommends athletes to use a healthy, wholesome diet that covers their energy and nutritional needs.
Healthy and wholesome here means the following: 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day (3 hands vegetables, two hands fruit), using the whole grain variant more often (for pasta, rice, and bread, for example), balancing the fluid balance with water and tea, saving sugar and salt (fast food), prefer healthy or vegetable fats (olive oil, nuts, avocado, fish) and enjoy a varied diet.
The energy requirement is higher in athletes than in non-athletes due to higher energy consumption, but it depends on intensity, duration, physical and external factors. For example, a dart player has a lower energy requirement than a triathlete or a rower. Also, an individual athlete’s energy requirements during the annual cycle can differ depending on the competition and training phase.
What Is Your Energy Requirement?
Insufficient energy intake, dehydration, and regular consumption of alcoholic beverages can negatively affect an athlete’s strength and regeneration and reduce coordination, stamina, and responsiveness—also, the risk of injury increases.
In addition to the type of sport, differences in requirements also relate to training intensity, physique, external environmental factors, and, above all, the training duration. While strength athletes mostly exercise shorter loads and sprints, training units and competitions for endurance athletes such as long-distance runners and cyclists often last several hours. In the following, you will find practical tips for your diet, depending on whether you do endurance or weight training.
Nutritional Tips For Endurance Sports
In contrast to strength athletes, endurance athletes need increased energy intake over a more extended period. For the optimal energy supply, it is therefore essential that the carbohydrate stores are completely replenished beforehand. A high-carbohydrate diet is recommended here. Pasta with tomato sauce, bread with cheese, and muesli with fruit and vegetable wraps are examples of the basis of a carbohydrate-rich, balanced diet.
After about 90 minutes, the carbohydrate stores are used up. You can provide new energy with the help of carbohydrate-rich liquid or food intake during the unit, which can be used quickly and optimally. Isotonic drinks, fruit, or dextrose are often used for this. However, you should test these before a competition to prevent possible digestive problems.
The protein requirement of endurance athletes is also somewhat higher due to the increased total consumption at approx. 1.2 – 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Hydration is also an essential factor, especially with long-term activities. During training sessions that last longer than 60 minutes, you should drink fluids in between to compensate for the loss, primarily through sweat. If the training duration exceeds 90 minutes, a sodium and carbohydrate intake is also recommended to replenish the carbohydrate stores and restore the electrolyte balance, which can be imbalanced by high sweat production.
Also Read: Training And Nutrition Tips For Women
Proper Nutrition In Weight Training
For strength athletes, protein intake is the main focus. The goal of a strength athlete is usually hypertrophy, i.e., muscle building. Above all, amino acids, i.e., the composition of proteins, is necessary for this.
After training, you should ideally replenish your energy and nutrient stores after 30 minutes to 120 minutes at the latest to give your body a basis for building muscle. We recommend around 1.2 – 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for strength athletes. In comparison: non-athletes are recommended about 0.8 g per kg of body weight.
When it comes to protein intake, it’s actually not just about quantity, but also about quality. The muscles cannot directly use more than 20 to 25 g of high-quality protein, and the body would convert the rest into fat reserves for later. Therefore, you should consume protein throughout the day to be able to use it optimally for building muscle.
Animal protein is one of the optimal protein sources, most similar to human protein. The quality of the protein sources can be expressed in terms of their biological value. This indicates how well the protein ingested from food can be converted into the body’s protein.
Sources of protein with a high biological value primarily include animal products such as dairy products, eggs, fish, or meat. But that doesn’t mean that a vegetarian or vegan diet has to compromise on biological value. By combining several foods, you can increase the biological significance and thus the protein quality. The combination of beans and corn, for example, has a higher biological value than beef, chicken eggs, or cow’s milk.
To meet your protein requirements quantitatively and qualitatively, you do not necessarily have to resort to meat, tuna, and eggs. Still, you can also optimally cover the conditions with a balanced, wholesome diet.
In addition to proteins, carbohydrates are also essential for strength athletes to replenish the glycogen stores. A cup of quark or yogurt with oatmeal, fruits, and nuts, bread with an egg, or a chicken pan with rice are suggestions for a quick and optimal energy supply after training. Vegans can often cover their protein needs with legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, or lentils, but soy products such as tofu are also protein-rich alternatives.
Sports nutrition is interesting for high-performance athletes; it can also be an essential factor for recreational athletes to achieve health and physical goals. In principle, the DGE specifications for macro and micronutrients are sufficient for a recreational athlete who wants to maintain his health. A balanced, wholesome diet and adequate fluids are ideal for performance.
Endurance athletes need to replenish their carbohydrate stores in competitive sports before – and during more extended units – during exercise. As a strength athlete in the performance area, on the other hand, the protein intake should be increased throughout the day to optimize muscle building. In addition to the quantity, the quality of the proteins is also essential. Additional food supplements are unnecessary for most athletes, especially for healthy recreational athletes who follow a balanced diet, and should be discussed with a doctor.