WHAT SHOULD A SPORTSPERSON EAT?
Both athletes and non athletes need the same nutrients... carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, mineral and water, but they need to consume them in different quantities and proportions.
Vitamins and minerals do not provide energy, but are needed in very small amounts to enable the body to perform efficiently and effectively.
It is essential that the food you eat provides sufficient energy to fuel your sport. It is also important that you obtain this energy from the correct food choices, to avoid gaining excess body fat, and to ensure you meet requirements for vitamins and minerals. Hopefully this summary will help you get the balance right.
FUELS FOR EXERCISE
Carbohydrate and fat are the 2 main fuels for exercising muscles. The proportion of carbohydrate to fat used during exercise depends on the type, duration, and intensity of your exercise, as well your fitness level and nutritional status.
Even the leanest athletes have ample stores of fat, however, carbohydrate stores are limited.
CARBOHYDRATE - THE MAINSTAY OF AN ATHLETE'S DIET
Carbohydrates are chains of glucose/sugar units. Simple chain structures are known as sugars while more complicated chains are called starches. Starches are broken down into their constituent sugars units in our mouths and intestines. The sugar units are then absorbed by the intestine into the blood stream.
Carbohydrate is stored in the body as glycogen in both the liver and muscles. During exercise glycogen is broken down into glucose to supply the working muscles with energy. An inadequate intake of carbohydrate rich foods leads to incomplete muscle glycogen stores. This will cause early fatigue, and will affect your daily training and performance.
Most sports nutrition is about supplementing the body's natural energy stores during prolonged or intensive exercise. To get the best result from training performance you need to fuel correctly. This is different for each individual so you need to experiment to find out what works for you.
Energy Gels are pre-packaged bundles of ready energy. The mixture of sugars will hit your blood stream within 5-15 mins of consuming providing an energy top up to your system.
Energy Bars & Drinks operate in a similar vein as Energy Gels though generally tend to offer a slower release of energy for longer endurance based performances. Drinking your calories can smooth out peaks & troughs of blood sugar movements.
Recovery products are usually protein based with carbohydrates to help fuel your muscle recovery.