Nutrition and types of sports

The balance of protein, carbs and fats will depend on the type of sport that you do. If you participate in weight training or sports that emphasise strength and power then you will need to increase your protein intake. Fish, chicken and lean red meat are all good sources of protein as are eggs, nuts and pulses.

Some athletes use protein supplements such as drinks or bars to boost their protein intake but these work best when used to supplement a healthy diet. Protein is used in a wide range of sports but is a particular favourite of the bodybuilding fraternity.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are important as these contain essential vitamins and minerals which are vital for good health. Hard, intensive training places an extra strain on the body, in particular the immune system, so make sure that you get plenty of nutrients. Some athletes supplement their diet with a multivitamin/mineral tablet but this is optional only.

If you are looking to lose weight (and body fat) then reduce the amount of fat in your diet and eat small, regular portions. Switch to low fat foods, especially with dairy products and limit alcohol intake.

Limit the amount of sugary carbohydrates but continue to eat starches such as wholegrain bread, rice and pasta. Many athletes find that the ‘low GI’ diet helps as this places an emphasis on eating slow release foods, little and often.

As regards eating before exercise; allow a couple of hours to pass before engaging in any activity. Your body needs time to digest this food and this time depends on the amount consumed. If you have eaten an average sized meal then 2 hours will be fine. If you have eaten a large meal then allow a bit longer.

Basically, you need to consume fewer calories than you expend. If you reduce your calorie intake and increase the amount of exercise that you do then you will lose weight. Ideally, you should aim to lose no more than 2 pounds a week.

A mixture of cardio and resistance training seems to be the best way of reducing body fat. Cardio burns off more calories than weight training but resistance training creates a longer ’afterburn’ than cardio. Afterburn is the term used to describe the state in which the metabolism is raised and keeps on burning calories long after exercise is ended.

Another way of helping to keep your metabolism in a fat burning state is to eat foods which have ‘thermogenic’ properties. These are foods which help to raise your metabolism and burn body fat. Examples of thermogenic foods include cayenne pepper, green tea, chilli powder, garlic, ginger and hot peppers.

These foods speed up your metabolism which creates heat that leads to fat burning. They suppress your appetite as well which is an added bonus. Try to include these in your diet.

Every athlete is different and their nutritional requirements will be based upon the type of sport they do, their age, gender, weight and metabolism. A competitive athlete will devise a suitable diet along with a training regime in conjunction with a coach or personal trainer.

Sports Nutrition Guide Index:

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