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Sports Nutrition – Empowering your performance by Clare Parr, sports nutritionist

Food is an important part in everyday life, but especially important when taking part in sport. We need it to power our muscles, repair tissue and amongst other things, help our bodily processes perform. Food is our fuel, it gives us our energy and it is important to get the basics right to get the best out of ourselves and our performance.

It all starts with the Energy Balance, this is the amount of calories consumed against the calories expelled, so whatever we eat we need to use. Men and women have different calorific needs, men on average consume 2500kcals and women 2000kcals, these values can vary depending on height, age and metabolism etc.

Different sports have different calorie requirements and these can be increased or decreased depending on duration of activity.  So we need to make sure we are eating enough to meet the calorific needs of activity.

Below shows the average energy expended during 1 hours physical activity for:

Running – 600-700kcals                  Walking – 198kcals

Swimming – 390kcals                        Golf – 260kcals

Tennis – 480kcals                                 Cycling – 360kcals

To meet our calorific needs we need to eat a varied diet incorporating carbohydrates, protein, fats and oils, vitamins, minerals and water.

Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy.  It fuels our brain and is vital for bodily functions.  Small amounts of carbohydrates are stored in the liver as glycogen and converted to units of energy (ATP adenosine triphosphate) and along with fat supplies the muscles with energy.

If we are doing a short burst of exercise (anaerobic exercise), glycogen is the main use of fuel.  With prolonged activity, aerobic exercise, glycogen gets used up so fat stores are used as an energy supply.

After exercise it takes a minimum of 20 hours to replace our glycogen stores, but is replaced fastest in the first two hours post exercise. So it is important to eat carbohydrates within the first two hours after exercise to replace our energy stores.

Protein is used for a source of fuel if our carbohydrate stores are low, so if we do not consume enough carbohydrates our bodies will take what it needs from our muscles for energy.

Protein also promotes growth and development of our muscles and regulates our bodily functions.  It has a role in maintaining optimum fluid balances in tissues, transporting nutrients in and out of cells, carrying oxygen and regulating blood clotting. It makes up part of the structure of every cell and tissues.

Athletes have an increased need for protein for breakdown and repair of muscles during and immediately after activity.  Endurance athletes need extra protein to cover the energy expenditure as they often don’t get enough carbohydrates from their diet.

Fats are vital for sport, they are also a source of energy, but it is important that we eat good fats, these are omega 3 and omega 6, found in oily fish, nuts, seed and avocados.  These oils are crucial as their benefits can improve our performance by: giving us increased energy and stamina, increase aerobic metabolism, increase exercise duration and intensity, improve delivery of oxygen and nutrients to our cells, improve release of growth hormone in response to sleep and exercise, improve recovery and reduce inflammation post recovery.

So to conclude, to exercise to the best of our ability we need to eat a balanced and varied diet.  This allows our muscles to repair and grow as well as give them strength and energy.

Carbohydrates should make up 60-70% of our daily food consumption, protein 15% and fats and oils 15-30%.  A varied diet allows us to get the vital vitamins for our bodily processes and water is essential to keep our muscles hydrated and at peak performance.

If you would like to learn more about how you can tailor your diet to aid your lifestyle and fitness goals why not book an appointment to see Clare here at the clinic?

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