The Basics of Sports Nutrition | Report Part 1


Sports nutrition is a specialization within the field of nutrition that partners closely with the study of the human body and exercise science. Sports nutrition can be defined as the application of nutrition knowledge to a practical daily eating plan focused on providing the fuel for physical activity, facilitating the repair and rebuilding process following hard physical work, and optimizing athletic performance in competitive events, while also promoting overall health and wellness. The area of sports nutrition is often thought to be reserved only for “athletes,” which insinuates the inclusion of only those individuals who are performing at the elite level. In this text, the term athlete refers to any individual who is regularly active, ranging from the fitness enthusiast to the competitive amateur or professional. Differences may exist in specific nutrient needs along this designated spectrum of athletes, creating the exciting challenge of individualizing sports nutrition plans. To fully understand and subsequently apply sports nutrition concepts, professionals instructing athletes on proper eating strategies first need to have a command of general nutrition as well as exercise science. The second step is to gain the knowledge of how nutrition and exercise science are intertwined, understanding that physical training and dietary habits are reliant on each other to produce optimal performance. The final step can be considered one of the most critical—the practical application of sports nutrition knowledge to individual athletes participating in a sport or physical activity. Sports nutrition professionals must be able to teach athletes by putting “book” knowledge into practice with actual food selection and meal planning, while keeping in mind the challenges presented by busy schedules of exercise, competitions, work, school, and other commitments. It is this third step that many professionals lack after graduating from an undergraduate or graduate program in sports nutrition, dietetics, exercise science, or athletic training.

Our focus is to review sports nutrition concepts while also translating the information into specific meal plans, recipes, and case study scenarios. Students are encouraged to seek additional opportunities outside the classroom to work with recreational and elite athletes to gain more experience in applying sports nutrition concepts before searching for a job in the “real world.”

Why study sports nutrition? 

Sports nutrition has recently emerged as a recognized specialty area within the field of nutrition. Athletes challenge their bodies on a regular basis through physical training and competitions. To keep up with the physical demands of their activity or sport, athletes need to fuel their bodies adequately on a daily basis. This fueling process requires a specialized approach; therefore, athletes who want to make dietary changes should seek out professionals who are experts in sports nutrition and experienced in developing individualized plans. Because of its relative infancy, sports nutrition research is providing new and exciting information on a regular basis. It is critical that sports nutrition professionals stay current so they can be evidencebased practitioners. Gone are the days of suggesting dietary practices based on anecdotal observations or experiences. Becoming an evidence-based practitioner requires use of nutrition guidelines and dietary practices that have been documented as being effective through peer-reviewed research. Professionals who have studied sports nutrition, have experience in the field, and continue to stay abreast of the latest nutrition research can prescribe individualized dietary plans that meet basic nutritional needs, enhance performance, and speed recovery in athletes of all sports. Becoming an evidence-based sports nutrition practitioner can lead to an exciting and fulfilling career. 

What are the basic nutrients? 

Foods and beverages are composed of six nutrients that are vital to the human body for producing energy, contributing to the growth and development of tissues, regulating body processes, and preventing deficiency and degenerative diseases. The six nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water and are classified as essential nutrients. The body requires these nutrients to function properly; however, the body is unable to endogenously manufacture them in the quantities needed daily, and therefore these nutrients must be obtained from the diet. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are classified as macronutrients because they have a caloric value and the body needs a large quantity of them on a daily basis. The micronutrients include vitamins and minerals; the prefix micro is used because the body’s daily requirements for these nutrients are small. Water fits into its own class, and requirements for it vary greatly among individuals. These nutrients will be discussed briefly in this section

What are carbohydrates? 

Carbohydrates are compounds constructed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose in the body, providing the main source of fuel (4 calories per gram of carbohydrate) for all physical activity. Carbohydrates are found in a wide variety of foods, including grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as in the milk/alternative (soy, rice, nut, and other nondairy products) group. 

What are proteins?

 Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are constructed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen molecules. Amino acids can be made within the body (nonessential) or obtained from dietary sources. Proteins are involved in the development, growth, and repair of muscle and other bodily tissues and are therefore critical for recovery from intense physical training. Proteins ensure that the body stays healthy and continues working efficiently by aiding in many bodily processes. Protein can also be used for energy, providing 4 calories per gram; however, it is not used efficiently and therefore is not a source of energy preferred by the body. Proteins are found in a variety of foods, including grains and vegetables, but are mainly concentrated in the milk/alternative as well as meat and beans/alternative (soy products, nuts, seeds, beans, and other nonanimal products) groups. 

What are fats?

 Fats, like the other macronutrients, are compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. Fats are also known as lipids, and they come from both plant and animal sources in our diet. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat. Other fats include cholesterol and phospholipids. With 9 calories per gram, fats are a concentrated source of energy. Fat is primarily used as a fuel at rest and during lowto moderate-intensity exercise. Fats are also involved in providing structure to cell membranes, aiding in the production of hormones, forming the insulation that wraps nerve cells, and facilitating the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats are concentrated in butter, margarines, salad dressings, and oils, but they are also found in meats, dairy products, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, and some grain products.

 What are vitamins? 

Vitamins are a large class of nutrients that contain carbon and hydrogen, as well as possibly oxygen, nitrogen, and other elements. There are two main requirements for a substance to be classified as a vitamin. First, the substance must be consumed exogenously because the body cannot produce it or cannot produce it in sufficient quantities to meet its needs. Second, the substance must be essential to at least one vital chemical reaction or process in the human body. Vitamins do not directly provide energy to the body; however, some vitamins aid in the extraction of energy from macronutrients. Vitamins are involved in a wide variety of bodily functions and processes that help to keep the body healthy and disease free. Vitamins are classified as either water soluble (B vitamins and vitamin C) or fat soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K), depending on their method of absorption, transport, and storage in the body. Vitamins are found in nearly all foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and beans/alternative, milk/alternative, and some fats.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post