Eat like a Athlete
Supplements and General Health • • 1 minute to read • By INFS Faculty
Author- Shubham Modi
We are well aware that the nutritional needs of the general population are based on the goals of a person. The inclusion of all food groups that provide all required nutrients gives the optimal state of health. But for the athletes, nutritional needs are independent in nature and don’t rely solely on the goal, but on the context of optimizing their training, and the timing of consumption plays an important role and will differ greatly to improve their strength, performance, and recovery.
Again, the nutrition of a cricketer will differ from a marathon runner.
The nutritional requirements for an athlete can go beyond the normal consumption allowance for the general population. The three main points to be considered for athletes are how much to eat, when to eat and what to eat!
The basic things which are required to be taken care of are, having sufficient energy to act and recover, enough raw materials to recover from all the damage they accumulate, and the timing of meals to optimize the process. The majority of the energy requirements are met by having adequate amounts of carbohydrates. They are to be consumed around their training or the event to maintain optimal energy and glycogen stores.
When a non-athlete (general population) is recommended to consume 150g of minimal carbohydrates, athletes would need more depending on the type of exercise/event. An endurance and strength athlete would need 5-12 g/kg body weight per day, depending on the intensity and duration. (Kerksick et al., 2018). For endurance athletes, the carbohydrate intake would be,
Pre-training or competition — 150-300 g (3-5 g/kg BW), 3-4 hours before exercise.
During exercise — 60g (0.5-1 g/kg) per hour of either liquid or solid carbohydrate where training lasts more than an hour.
Post-exercise/Recovery — To get the benefit of immediate recovery by filling the glycogen stores, carbohydrate intake of 5-7 g/kg BW per day for exercises lasting 45-60 mins, 7-10 g/kg BW per day for exercises lasting 1-3 hours, and 10-12 g/kg BW per day for exercises lasting more than 4-5 hours.
For a strength athlete, 3.9-8 g/kg/ BW is the recommended carbohydrate intake. Any low carbohydrate for strength and power athletes would decrease their performance and also impact their physiological factors (such as going to a hypoglycemic state). (Kerksick et al., 2018)
To maintain the net protein balance and to repair the muscles after an exercise, the intake of protein is needed. For the general population, the minimum protein intake is 0.8 g/kg BW per day while it differs between endurance and strength athletes depending on their goal. The protein intake for endurance athletes is around 1.2-1.4 g/kg BW per day whereas the amount of protein for strength athletes ranges from 1.2-3 g/kg BW per day depending on the spectrum of the goals (Kerksick et al., 2018).
In few studies reviewed by Antonio et al. (2020) showed, that consuming >3 g or more than the recommended protein did not show any significant increase in strength, though there is an increase in fat-free mass.
Adequate fat intake should be 20-30% of the total calorie intake, the same as for the general population. There is no evidence to show high fat intake would be much effective for athletes in improving their performance.
Athletic activities require a person to drink extra water to compensate for the lost water from perspiration. Generally, an extra 1.5-2.5 cups (or 400-600ml) of water will suffice for short bouts of exercise. However, with intense workouts lasting for an hour, the body will require more hydration. Intense exercise and athletes require greater water consumption about 16 ounces of fluids approximately 1-1.5 hrs before physical activity. After this, they should institute a sipping protocol (i.e. about a half-cup every 10-15 mins) if possible.
Athletes can’t rely on thirst sensation for an indication of how much water to consume. After physical activity, they should consume sufficient fluids to regain a good state of hydration as indicated by clear urine. Guidelines for athletes are usually based on the amount of weight they lose during activity. Athletes also tend to consume solutions to reverse dehydration, such as sports drinks with electrolytes.
When talking about the electrolyte minerals, the imbalance status during any activity can cause a person not able to produce sufficient energy, inefficient muscle contraction, feel dizzy, and start getting disoriented. Sodium loss during sweating is inevitable, and other minerals need to be replenished during the activity too, which can either be done by strategically planning the intra-workout electrolytes intake.
Along with proper nutrition planning, nutrient timing also plays a role for the athletes, in particular, carbohydrates around the training/exercise/events and careful planning has to be made by a knowledgeable and experienced coach.
Antonio, J. et al. (2020) ‘Effects of Dietary Protein on Body Composition in Exercising Individuals’, Nutrients, 12(6), pp. 1–11. doi: 10.3390/NU12061890.
Communications, S. (2016) ‘Nutrition and Athletic Performance’, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 48(3), pp. 5
Huecker, M. et al. (2019) ‘Protein Supplementation in Sport: Source, Timing, and Intended Benefits’, Current Nutrition Reports, 8(4), pp. 382–396. doi: 10.1007/s13668-019-00293-1.
Kerksick, C. M. (2018) Requirements of Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats for Athletes. Second Edi, Nutrition and Enhanced Sports Performance: Muscle Building, Endurance, and Strength. Second Edi. Elsevier Inc. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-813922-6.00038-2.
Roberts, B. M. et al. (2020) ‘Nutritional Recommendations for Physique Athletes’, Journal of human kinetics, 71(1), pp. 79–108. doi: 10.2478/HUKIN-2019-0096.
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