Good nutrition for athletes

by frank-stuart
28SEP

We are fed an inordinate amount of information about healthy eating, and it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Who should we listen to? What foods are the best to eat? How much should we eat? Good nutrition is essential to an athlete’s performance.

Whole grains, vegetables, and fruit

The healthiest foods for an athlete to eat are the same foods everyone should eat (providing they don’t have allergic reactions to those foods). Don’t be fooled into thinking that carbohydrates are bad. Sure some carbohydrates are not nutritious and have a high calorie count, but “good” carbs are essential, especially for athletes who need plenty of energy to burn.

The best carbohydrates are whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Whole grains are particularly good for athletes because they are full of nutrients, and are complex carbohydrates, meaning they are digested at a slower rate than simple carbohydrates. They provide the slow release of energy that athletes need for optimum performance. Without enough carbs, athletes won’t have enough glycogen in their systems to perform at their peak.

Fruits and vegetables are simple carbohydrates, but are a very important part of a good diet, whether for sports stars or ordinary folk, because they contain essential nutrients that all of us need to stay healthy.

Heavily processed carbohydrates should be consumed sparingly, because they usually don’t have as many nutrients and they can lead to weight gain and higher blood sugar levels. They are also more easily digestible, which is not what athletes need to perform at their best.

Protein and dairy

It’s also very important for athletes consume the right protein and dairy products. Protein contains essential amino acids and repairs and rebuilds muscle. The best protein-rich foods are those that don’t also have high concentrations of fat. Fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are good choices, and lean meat in moderation is also important.

Many dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, are also sources of protein. Yoghurt is also full of probiotics, which are great for the immune system. Dairy products can aid the post-exercise recovery process. They rehydrate the body, repair muscle tissue, and also replenish energy levels.

The myth of the low-fat diet

There are countless low-fat diets that promise rapid weight loss around, but not only are most of them ineffective, they convey the wrong message. People who follow low-fat diets may be missing out on fats that are essential for the proper functioning of the human body. These “good” fats help the body absorb vitamins and minerals, provide energy and promote tissue repair.

Unsaturated fats are considered healthy fats, and have a variety of benefits. Some foods that contain unsaturated fats include avocados, nuts, olive oil, salmon, eggs, chicken, lean beef and flaxseed.

A balanced diet

That old saying still rings true – everything in moderation. Ensure you get enough complex carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables, choose healthy protein foods, discriminate between good and bad fats, and go easy on food with little nutritional value.

Nutrition and sports performance go hand in hand. If you are considering a career that involves nutrition and sports performance, ACPE has a range of fitness and sports science courses that could get you started in an exciting new career.

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