Sports Nutrition: General Info

Eating a balanced diet is the best strategy for health in sports nutrition. In addition, drinking enough water is essential. No one food is better than another in synergy with exercise or participating in sporting events. However, eating more food with certain types of nutrients may be necessary after exercising.

For example, exercise or sports activities for longer than 90 minutes will require carbohydrates afterwards to replace glycogen and protein will be necessary to repair damaged muscle tissue.

Generally, experts recommend eating meals that contain both carbohydrates and protein and eating 5 servings of fruit per day. Some people think good sports nutrition involves eating foods high in protein. This can be a mistake, as carbohydrates are necessary to help keep muscle energy up.

Fitness gurus advise that meals preceding a workout should not be larger than 800 calories and should include high-carb, low-fat foods, salt, protein and fiber (fruits and veggies). Too much of any one type of food — such as protein or fiber — can cause nausea or heartburn. In addition, it is advisable to be sure that food (200-calorie snack or meal) is eaten at least one hour before working out.

Some "do's" for good sports nutrition

There are several benefits to eating certain foods. Low-fat yogurt provides calcium for bones, as well as magnesium and potassium. Nuts add fiber, Vitamin E, zinc and antioxidants to the diet — all of which are great for the immune system.

Do keep dried fruits around as low-fat convenient snacks; they’re rich in potassium, which regulates water balance, causes acids to leave joints, helps eliminate wastes, and is critical for proper cardiovascular and nerve function. If losing fat and weight is your goal in exercising, your sports nutrition should include plenty of cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts.

Some "don’ts" for good sports nutrition

Exercising is good not only for weight control but also for reducing stress, but stress often causes people to reach for carbohydrates. Be sure to avoid processed carbs such as pasta, white rice and bagels, as the body tends to store them as fat. Another good rule of thumb is to avoid alcohol, as it adds extra calories.

Supplement use in sports nutrition

With the increasing popularity of fitness and exercising, sports nutrition has seen an increase of supplements on the market. Shelves in health food stores and pharmacies are now stocked with fat burners, body-building supplements, high-performance nutritional supplements, and high-protein bars and powders — all touting sports nutrition benefits that may be missing in one’s normal eating habits. In addition, there are sports drinks that can replace the electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise workouts.