Did you know that athletes have unique nutrition needs compared to the inactive? The interrelated roles of macro (carbs, protein and fat), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), water and electrolytes significantly impacts your metabolism during exercise. For example, low energy availability (not eating enough) can impair athletic performance as the body is unable to tolerate high quality training sessions and make favorable physiological adaptations to exercise. Reasons for being in a low energy available state often result from intentional restriction of nutrients (ex. dieting, body composition changes), lack of available food or unintentional restriction from not understanding how to increase energy intake (and time nutrition with training) to accommodate an increase in energy expenditure from an increased training load.
If an athlete continues to train in this low energy state as training advances, adverse effects can occur in terms of hormones (ex. estrogen, testosterone, cortisol), poor recovery, compromised bone health, decreased neuromuscular performance, fatigue and sickness. According to recent research, "Low energy availability is the fundamental issue driving the multi-system dysfunction in the endocrine, metabolic, haematological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, immunological and psychological systems in RED-S."
No single food (addition or elimination) will help boost your health, body composition or performance but instead, it’s the synergistic role of all the foods in your diet that affects the functioning of your body during exercise. And every athlete can create a unique diet that works for health, performance and body composition. If you are an athlete, making sense of how to eat for fuel, provide your body with optimal nutrients to optimize health and time nutrition with exercise is key.
As an example:
- Water is needed to maintain body temperature, remove wastes and lubricate your joints.
- Carbohydrates provide energy for your muscles, maintain blood glucose levels and fuel the central nervous system.
- Proteins are the building blocks of your muscles and help with rapid recovery.
- Fat is an essential nutrient that provides energy while supporting body functions necessary for human health.
- Vitamins and minerals optimize immune system health and provide the flame to metabolic reactions to help you turn food into energy during exercise.
Far too much of the information available to athletes is packed with confusing and conflicting sport nutrition advice and strategies, often prescribing extreme practices or restrictive measures by "experts". If you are an athlete, coach or parent, my book Essential Sport Nutrition will help clear-up the confusion so athletes can take away the guessing and begin eating and fueling in a way to reach athletic excellence with a nutritionally-rich and performance-enhancing style of eating. I provide simple, easy-to-follow guidelines suitable for every type of athlete (fitness level and eating style).
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