Sports Nutrition

By Cara Sloss

How can sports nutrition help?

Athletes of all levels can benefit from looking at their nutrition to help optimise their performance and reach their goals. The type of food we eat and the specific nutrients can influence how well you complete the training session, how you feel and how you recover and get ready for the next session.

Goals of Sports Nutrition:

  • Optimising fuelling, adaptation and recover
  • Reduce illness and injury
  • Optimise training consistency
  • More time training = better race day performance!

What can a sports nutrition assessment help with?

Training day nutrition

Planning your daily nutrition is essential to ensure are able to meet energy, carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamin and mineral requirements for your training. This includes a periodised nutrition approach to fit with your training schedule which means fuelling with the correct foods for the specific training session. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all! An individualised sports nutrition assessment can tailor your daily dietary intake to help you achieve your performance goals.

It can be common for athletes to fall into habits of under fuelling, often unintentionally. This may be due to a busy lifestyle, recent increases in training load or reduced appetite following high-intensity training. Spotting the signs of reduced energy availability early is crucial to prevent significant negative health effects. Relative energy deficiency syndrome (RED-S) is the name given to a collection of symptoms arising due to reduced energy available for your training load. Symptoms can affect all parts of the body and both males and females are at risk. Common signs to look out for include: an unexplained reduction in training performance, increased fatigue, decreased concentration, irritability, recurrent injury and illness. For female athletes, a change to a normal regular menstrual cycle is often one of the first warning symptoms. Carefully planning your nutrition to meet training demands can prevent energy deficiency from occurring.

Preparing for race day

Making sure you have confidence in your competition nutrition strategy is an important factor in performing well. For endurance events over an hour in duration, there is strong research to suggest additional carbohydrate is needed to sustain energy and performance levels throughout the event. Like any other muscle, the stomach can be trained to accept food and fluid during exercise. However, practice is crucial! Careful planning of dietary intake the week before race day will ensure your muscles are fully topped up with glycogen (energy) stores ready for race day.

Balancing nutrition with your lifestyle

Maintaining a well-balanced diet around your lifestyle is extremely important to help you get the most out of your training. During a sports nutrition assessment, we look at your current dietary intake and factors influencing this. It might be about looking at choices to make if your work schedule means you eat out a lot of fitting in additional snacks during the day to meet higher energy needs. Aiming to make it as easy as possible to fuel well!

Fuelling for recovery and immunity

Including a recovery nutrition strategy within 30 minutes of finishing training can increase how quickly your body recovers and prepares for the next session. Periods of intense training can result in impaired immunity and increased risk of infections, however, there is evidence to suggest recovery nutrition and specifically, carbohydrate intake can minimise these effects on the immune system.

Recovery from injury

An injury is a dreaded time for any athlete but nutrition and hydration can play a part in how quickly you recover. This might be adjusting energy intake to meet needs of reduced training or optimising nutrient intake for healing. Focus on your nutrition during an injury can reinforce positive routines and habits for when you’re able to return to training.

Athletes in a transition phase

A transition period of any kind can place additional demands on the body and require an adjustment in nutrition. Common times to look at re-assessing your diet would be moving to University, transitioning from University into full-time work or a change in sport or training load. A change in living and social environment can lead to additional pressures that may make it more difficult to stick to your nutrition plan. Considering cooking skills, budgeting and demands of your daily lifestyle are all important factors in fuelling well for your sport.

What does the nutrition assessment involve?

Contact Cara Sloss for more information. Before the appointment, you will be asked for some information about your current training, dietary intake and lifestyle which will include a short food diary. During the consultation, we will discuss this information along with your goals and look at a nutrition strategy to optimise health and performance. Following the assessment, you will be sent an individualised report to support the information discussed. An important part of the process is ensuring you understand why certain changes are suggested and education around how to manage your own nutrition in the future.

How many appointments will I need?

This is entirely led by you! Often two appointments are helpful to be able to carry out an initial assessment and then to review progress with goals set. Some athletes will require a review more regularly during the competition season and then check in at other times of the year when there are key changes in the training schedule. Others find that one session is sufficient to be able to fully assess their dietary intake and are then confident in managing the dietary goals set. Appointments are booked one at a time so can be fully adjusted depending on progress.

Finally, consider the role of nutrition in prevention! Often athletes will think more about their nutrition when something goes wrong, however, when an injury occurs it could be that a minor deficiency has been there for some time. Well planned nutrition can optimise your performance potential and a nutrition assessment can help facilitate this through education, intervention and supporting behaviour change.

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