Sports Nutrition: Changing Diet to Adapt to Exercise

When you start a new exercise program, it is important to enhance your overall diet with sports nutrition to maximize your athletic performance. Professional athletes who depend on optimal athletic performance for their careers, make sports nutrition one of their top priorities.

The tricky part is knowing which nutrition plan will work best for your particular activity. Different amounts of different nutrients are needed for strength sports such as bodybuilding and weight lifting than for endurance sports such as cycling, running, and swimming. You can find many books about sports nutrition, but here are a few main points to help you get started.

Balance Your Diet to Maximize Your Performance

To enhance your athletic performance and your health, you’ll need to balance your intake of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and fluids. The right balance will improve your body composition which can increase your strength, speed, and coordination. While a balanced diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products lean meats, beans, and essential fats, you may need to increase your intake of carbs, fats, and proteins if you increase your amount of physical activity. Sports nutrition will also help you recover more quickly after intense workouts. 

Carbohydrates for Energy

Carbohydrates are the main nutrients that provide energy and fuel for muscle contractions during moderate to high intensity exercise. Athletes can optimize their performance by eating whole grain carbohydrates,  such as whole grain pastas, whole grain breads, and brown rice before workouts. The carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which produces energy. Any glucose that is not used right away will get stored in the muscles and the liver in as glycogen. Glycogen is the source of energy that is used most during intense exercise—from sprinting to weight lifting.

Fats for Endurance

Fats can increase your endurance by fueling low intensity exercise for long periods of time. While you don’t want to eat too much fat for your body, a low-fat diet will not provide the endurance you need for endurance sports, such as triathlons or marathons.

Proteins for Recovery

While protein is not an ideal source of fuel for energy needed when you exercise, an adequate amount of proteins are needed to repair and rebuild body tissues and muscles that are broken down during exercise. Protein can also be broken down to make glucose for energy if you have not eaten enough carbohydrates to last for your entire workout.

Hydrate After Exercise

After you exercise, it is best to replenish your fluids by drinking water, juice, sports drinks, or milk within 30 minutes. Drinking fluids immediately after a workout will help to speed muscle recovery.

Performance Enhancing Supplements

Many athletes also use supplements to increase their speed, strength, and endurance. Supplements can be useful tools for professional athletes whose sports are also their jobs. Before starting any supplements for sports nutrition, consult with your health care provider about which supplements will work best for you.


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