Home > Getting Started > Sports Nutrition: General

Sports Nutrition: General

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 4 May 2013 | comments*Discuss
Sports Nutrition Athletes And Diet

If you participate regularly in sporting activities you should be constantly aware of what you are eating and drinking to not only maintain your health but also to improve your performance. Although a healthy, balanced diet is important to all of us, to a sportsperson it has a direct impact upon their ability to train, to compete and to recover.

A Healthy Diet

Carbohydrates, which are not rich in starch, should make up around two-thirds of an athlete’s diet, about 10% should be protein-based from things like meat, poultry and fish with the remainder deriving from unsaturated fats, fruit and vegetables. The energy levels of an athlete much depend on a healthy intake of carbohydrates and fats, in addition to taking lots of fluids on board to keep your body’s temperature regulated. If you fail to do this, not only will you suffer from fatigue but your performance will be diminished as a direct consequence.

It’s estimated that your natural energy reserves can take an hour to recover just 5% after intense physical activity which means that it can take up to 20 hours, or almost a day, to recover completely. Therefore, you should try and eat some carbohydrate based meal within an hour or two of vigorous exercise or, if you can’t face eating that soon, you can substitute food with a healthy sports based drink containing sucrose or glucose.

Whilst carbohydrates are essential to an athlete’s diet, it’s important to eat the right ones. Potatoes are full of starch whereas brown rice or pasta and whole grain bread are preferable. Too much carbohydrate, however, can cause your body to retain water and can increase body weight. And remember to keep well hydrated with plenty of water as you can easily become dehydrated due to sweating as a result of exercise.

Before Competition

Just as you will have perfected your training regime so that it’s aligned to the actual time you perform in competition, so to should your food regime.

Your diet before competing should consist of the familiar carbohydrates, fibre-rich food and plenty of fluids although the specifics of what you eat and the time you choose to eat will vary from person to person.

In general, a larger meal takes around 4 hours to digest, a smaller one 2 to 3 hours and a snack, maybe an hour or two but this will vary and can often differ significantly as nerves and adrenalin can play a part too. What you specifically choose to eat will also vary depending on the length and intensity of the activity you’re participating in.

Many athletes tend to have something like a chicken and pasta based meal a few hours before the event and will often supplement that with things such as bananas and other fresh fruit closer to competition time which often helps to prevent stomach cramps.

Dangers of Supplements and Unhealthy Eating Habits

For most athletes, sport is all about winning and such is the emphasis on winning that some athletes will do whatever it takes to win, even if that’s at the detriment to their own health.

Steroids and other supplements which aim to bulk you up and enhance performance can not only be dangerous but are also illegal in many sports. Other sports, such as horse racing and boxing, for example place a heavy burden on an athlete’s ability to maintain an intense degree of control on their weight and this can have disastrous consequences if not managed carefully with dehydration, under-nourishment, bulimia and anorexia becoming real dangers so it’s important to seek proper dietary advice about your particular sport and to follow that advice carefully.

In essence, however, it’s all about eating a healthy balanced diet and keeping well hydrated. Remember your ‘5 a day’ fruit and vegetables too and seek advice from your coach or a sports dietician if you’re in any doubt about what you should eat and when.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Harley B
    Re: Badminton Safety
    1. What are some of the injuries that might result in playing badminton? 2. What is one method you can do/use to avoid injuries? Warm Up / Warm…
    24 September 2020
  • Nathaly?
    Re: Badminton Safety
    1. eye injuries, Tennis elbow, knee injuries, Ankle injuries. 2. It can be avoided by proper preparation like lack of technique, lack of…
    24 September 2020
  • kay
    Re: Badminton Safety
    1. What are some of the injuries that might result in playing badminton? The person most at risk is the player who is nearest the net when their…
    23 September 2020
  • yassir svitti
    Re: Benefits of Joining an Athletics Club
    Hi i m yassir i have 1500m 3:54 and 800m 1:55 and 3000m 8:36
    13 April 2020
  • Sisilia
    Re: Training For Competitive Sports
    If you need help losing weight here you go
    17 March 2020
  • PAZ
    Re: Table Tennis
    im a big fan of ping pong (table tennis)
    6 January 2020
  • Mary
    Re: Using The Gym Safely: Equipment
    I am looking for signage to put up on the use of gym equipment for the gym we have built as part of our property…
    22 August 2019
  • Jems Born
    Re: Benefits of Joining an Athletics Club
    Sir.. I Want to joined atheletic in runing.. How can i joined this course..
    24 July 2019
  • Young Poor
    Re: Paragliding Safety
    I keep asking advice for over half Century; people in my age group, smart and polite have obviously died out. Undisturbed, they watch pilots…
    24 October 2018
  • Pat
    Re: What Are the Rules on Children and Gym Equipment?
    we are in a bit of a quandary...we are a charity, voluntarily run community based sports facility. we…
    14 October 2018