Nutritional and Fluid Requirements for Optimal Energy and Performance
With many athletes trying to get the competitive edge over their opponents, optimal nutrition and adequate hydration can give you just that. Not only is a healthy balanced diet important for health and wellbeing, but it also promotes optimal performance in your sport. For general advice, follow these nutrition and hydration guidelines:
Enjoy your Food!
- The food you eat has to be enjoyable, practical, realistic and sustainable, while also addressing your short-term performance needs and long-term health needs.
Variety is the Spice of Life
- Variety means two things: enjoying foods from different food groups, as well as within food groups. Different foods contain different nutrients and by including a wide variety of foods in your diet you’ll be more likely to meet your nutritional needs.
Moderation Is The Key
- All foods have a place in a healthy diet, but it’s best to make whole foods the basis of all meals and limit the amount of processed food consumed. Find a place in your diet for your favourite foods instead of avoiding them completely, as deprivation can lead to 'over-consumption' when you do allow yourself to eat these forbidden foods.
- Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source and the more active you are the more carbohydrates you need. For sport longer than an hour, carbohydrates become critical for performance. Specific carbohydrate requirements depend on your sport and body size.
Use Low Fat Cooking Methods
- An athlete’s diet should be low in fat, particularly when weight loss or making weight is needed. Grilling, microwaving, stir-frying and baking in minimum oil are preferable to frying. Use a range of unsaturated oils instead of butter. Limit the amount of oil you use in your cooking to one tablespoon.
Avoid Fad Diets
- High protein, low carbohydrate diets and other fad diets are not recommended for athletes or the general diet. While they may give you short-term weight loss, they are potentially dangerous and can result in a reduction in muscle mass and metabolism. These diets can also result in mood swings, impair immune function and increase the risk of injury. For the best performance on the field provide your body with a well, balanced diet.
Maintain Your Hydration
- Hydration is essential for both physical and mental performance. Inadequate intake of fluid before, whether during or after training / competition can lead to impaired concentration and co-ordination, increased perceived level of exertion, fatigue and an increased heart rate and body temperature. Water and sports drinks offer great ways to maintain hydration. Sport drinks are beneficial for replacing fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrate stores when exercise is longer than one hour. Drink regularly, aiming for about 150-300ml of fluid every 20 minutes. If this is not possible, aim to replace 80 percent of your fluid losses throughout your training session.
Rehydrate After Training and Competition
- Weigh yourself before and after exercise and drink 150% of your total weight loss ie, 1kg of weight loss = 1kg of fluid loss, so you would need to drink 1.5L to replace this loss. This amount of fluid is needed as you physiologically continue to lose fluid after you stop exercising.
For more individual and tailored advice for your sport, make an appointment with our naturopath and / or one of our sports physiotherapists..
Published by Balmain Sports Medicine