Sports Nutrition

Most athletes say they are aware of the importance of good nutrition, but when they sit down to eat, their patterns of food intake are often considerably less than optimal.
A Diet for people doing active sports activity is one which involves eating for energy and for prevention of injuries which are often due to nutritional deficiencies.

This translates into a diet of approximately

60-65% complex carbohydrates (It may be more appropriate, however, to base recommendations on body weight which is independent of energy intake), 10-15% fat (preferably of vegetable origin), and 10-15% protein. One key problem is that athletes often take in less energy than they really need to support strenuous training. Another is that they simply don't ingest enough carbohydrate.

The Optimum Requirements :


Athletes benefit the most from the amount of carbohydrates stored in the body. Complex carbohydrates gives the athlete the equivalent of time released energy necessary to sustain extraordinary effort and combat fatigue, fatigue being one of the principlecauses of injury.
Complex carbohydrates comes from foods like Oats , whole wheat and the other whole grain products.
People who have been eating a junk food diet or one with poor food choices often have weak enzyme systems, and some proteins and fatty foods may take several days to break down in this case. Too many athletes rely on fast food for the majority of their food intake resulting in 60 to 70% of their calories coming from fats.

Protein :

Protein needs of athletes vary according to type of activity and level of training. Extra protein is stored as fat. In the fully grown athlete, it is training that builds muscle, not protein per se. The ADA reports that a protein intake of 10 - 15 percent of total calories is sufficient. People who are non-vegetarian, can make the best use of lean chicken , fish , eggs to give them A-class protein or a complete protein. Vegetarian protein comes from veg sources like Tofu , soya , dals etc. However,as they lack in one or more essential amino acids, hence are termed as B-class protein.
Protein recommended for an ordinary person is 1gm/kg body weight/day. Most authorities recommend that endurance athletes eat between 1.2-1.4 grams protein/kg of body weight/day; resistance and strength-trained athletes may need as much as 1.6-1.7 grams protein/kg of body weight. People who lack minimum requirement of protein intake, can have additional supplements in the form of powders but under physians guidance only.

Fats :

Dietary fat should make up the remainder of energy intake after CHO and protein needs are met. The American Dietetic Associations (ADA) recommend that 30 % of total energy intake should come from fat. Atheletes should avoid the the saturated fat and trans fat.
Traditional diets for athletes consisted of a high percentage of meat, cheese and cream milk(saturated fat). Although a steak has a lot of protein it may also contain as much as 80% saturated fat. A fast food hamburger is higher in trans fat than in protein.

High fat items that should not be consumed by athletes are:

  • Red meat
  • Fried foods
  • Cheese
  • Whole milk
  • Pork products
  • Butter or margarin


Water is an important nutrient for the athlete. Athletes should start any event hydrated and replace as much lost fluid as possibleby drinking chilled liquids at frequent intervals during the event. Chilled fluids are absorbed faster and help lower body temperature.

Some Tips to Remember

Sugar increases pain -

Simple sugars such as white sugar or honey can actually increase the pain of injuries. Cut out the sugar and the pain of injuries that do occur will decrease greatly.

The healing Pineapple -

When an injury does occur get a fresh pineapple, ,and eat as much of it as you can in one hour. Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, and this enzyme along with other nutrients in the fruit, actually help the healing process by breaking down the injured tissue.

Excess salt impairs healing –

Excess salt leads to changes in metabolism that increase the potential for injuries and impair wound healing. The average man is consuming 40 times more salt than needed, most of it in processed foods where it is often used as a flavor enhancer and a preservative.

Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor -

a substance that reduces blood supply by narrowing blood vessels. Athletes want the blood vessels wide open to carry all the nutrients to all the muscles, so a reduction of coffee and most soft drinks is helpful.

Jump the Junk –

The junk food or the Fast food diets in addition to the fat, salt, and sugar content are deficient in vitamins and minerals. The mineral deficiency can lead to muscle pulls and cramps.

Vurnaleble Vitamin C -

Vitamin C with bioflavonoids are helpful to the athlete for several reasons:
  • It helps keep the immune system strong under stress
  • It helps maintain collagen-the protein necessary for the formation of connective tissue.
  • It speeds healing. It can cut recovery time by as much as 75% in a number of wound and surgery situations.
  • The bioflavonoids help maintain the strength and integrity of the capillaries resulting in less bruising and less hemorrhaging around sprains.
  • There is much less soft tissue injury
  • There are fewer sprains
  • There are fewer muscle problems and tendonitis

Some of Vitamin C sources are berries , oranges , grapes , peaches , pears , lemon , amla etc.

  • A zinc supplement greatly speeds up healing and regeneration of damaged connective tissue. Surgical incisions close up cleaner and faster.
  • A magnesium supplement aids in healing cartilage injuries of the knee, and in the cartilage strains of the shoulder joints.
  • A calcium supplement helps prevent muscle cramping.
  • Vitamin E helps reduce inflammation and increases blood flow to injury sites
  • Omega 3 fatty acids help prevent build up fat in the circulatory system, thin the blood for better transport of nutrients, and protect
  • againstvarious inflammatory problems, including those resulting from injuries.
Becoming an elite athlete requires good genes, good training and conditioning and a sensible diet. Optimal nutrition is essential for peak performance. Nutritional misinformation can do as much harm to the ambitious athlete as good nutrition can help.