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Good Sports Nutrition, What Is It?

Sports nutrition has become something of an art. A careful balancing act of intake versus output where every mouthful of food consumed has been analysed to ensure maximum benefit. It’s about knowing exactly what you’re putting in your mouth and what it will do in your body. How it will benefit you.

Whilst there is no doubting the fact that the best way to achieve optimum nutrition is to consume a healthy, balanced diet, many sports people opt to take supplements of some sort to ensure they are getting everything they need. But even this can pose problems if you don’t know much about nutrition. It would be nice to be able to rely on what’s written on the label and on manufacturer’s claims but sometimes those claims just don’t pan out. That’s if you know how to read and interpret the labels.

What’s In Those Supplements

And this is one of the first things you need to learn to do if you’re going to rely on supplements. You have to be able to understand which are the important ingredients, what the numbers mean, how honest the manufacturer is being and so on. This is the only way you will be able to tell exactly what is in the supplement, the quantities and whether or not it’s the right supplement for you.

Obviously not everything comes conveniently packaged with labels that give you a blow by blow account of everything that’s in it. Restaurant and fast food are a case in point. However, you can ask for a list of nutritional information; most fast food places can provide this. There’s also our good friend Google. Someone, at some time, has analysed pretty much every common or popular food and provided a copy of their findings for public viewing.

Now we come to some of the basics of good sports nutrition.

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Be realistic about hydration.

During exercise you should aim to drink 550-800/ml an hour depending on the weather conditions, your size and the intensity of the exercise you’re doing. Drinking too much is as bad as not drinking enough because excess fluid intake can cause a potentially fatal hyponatremic coma. So whilst it may be tempting to try and replace all the sweat you’re losing, physically your body simply can’t do that.

Don’t Overdo The Calorie Intake

Yes, you’re burning calories faster than a V8 burns gas but unlike that V8 fuel tank, you can’t replace all of those calories all at once. At least not without some serious performance issues. All most athletes require is around 250 – 300 calories per hour whilst they’re exercising.

Simple Sugars Are Out

Ensure that you’re sticking to complex carbs rather than simple sugars. They’re much better for you, far more efficient as a fuel source and far less dangerous to your body. They also get absorbed much faster than simple sugars.

Don’t Forget About Protein

If your exercise bout is longer than two hours you’re going to need protein. Around 10% of your energy needs worth. The best way to obtain this is via a quality fuel that contains both complex carbs and protein.

Soy Is Best

When it comes to exercise, the glutamine in whey protein produces ammonia, a major contributor to muscle fatigue. So restrict the whey to after exercise and opt for either soy or rice protein during exercise.

Go With Liquid Fuels

Liquid foods are more easily digested than solid foods, meaning the nutrients are available quicker. So make a point of having more of them and less of the solid stuff, especially during training and competition.

Don’t Forget The Electrolytes

Electrolyte replenishment is essential if you want your body to continue functioning properly during training and competition. Keeping up the fuels is all very well but if you let your electrolytes run out you’ll crash. And remember that electrolytes are more than just salt so salt tablets alone won’t cut it. You also need calcium, magnesium and potassium. Plus too much salt interferes with your body’s use of electrolytes.

Don’t Try Out New Stuff In A Competition

Competition time is not the time to be trying out that new supplement that caught your eye or that new wonder fuel your friend told you about. Stick to the tried and true and save the new stuff for training when you can test, assess and refine.

Flexibility Is Important

Remember that training and competition are different environments so when it comes to fuel requirements and calorie intake what works in training may not necessarily work as well during competition.

Don’t Forget The Post Exercise Refuel

Once you’re done training or competing, it’s time to restock those depleted fuel stores and provide your body with the tools to repair itself. That means giving it a good shot of carbs and protein as soon as possible. This sets you up right for your next exercise session.

Plan Your Pre-Competition Fuelling Correctly

Don’t over eat the night before competition. It won’t help with the carb loading. Also get a good night’s sleep. Finish your last meal at least 3 hours prior to competition for optimum liver glycogen top up and make sure it includes complex carbs, a little bit of protein and not much fibre. Then have 100 – 200 calories just before the competition. The article Good Sports Nutrition – What is it? was written by David Cross.

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