Sports nutrition is a science-based field that focuses on fuelling the body to optimise performance. This involves ensuring that athletes have sufficient energy from macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to allow for optimal growth and activity.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source during exercise. They are broken down during digestion into sugars, which can be used for immediate energy or stored in the liver and muscle tissue as glycogen to be used later. Athletes can increase their glycogen stores by regularly eating carbohydrate-rich foods.
Fluid intake is important to maintain hydration and ensure that muscles are well-hydrated during activity. The recommended amount of fluids to consume varies between individuals and depends on the intensity, duration and frequency of activity. It is recommended to drink water before, during and after training sessions and events. Carbohydrate-based drinks with a low GI such as juices, sport drinks and granola bars can also be used to help refuel during prolonged exercise sessions.
Optimal protein intake is also essential for maintaining and developing lean muscle mass. Insufficient protein intake may lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy, which can reduce performance and increase the risk of injury. Protein should be consumed in the form of meat, fish, dairy products, whey protein powders and plant-based proteins such as soya.
It is recommended to eat a high-protein meal or snack 1 h before an event to help support muscle protein synthesis. In addition, consuming protein supplements containing whey protein, milk and/or a granola bar after exercise can help replenish the protein depleted by intense training sessions.