Why is it used?
In recent years there has been considerable interest in the role of diet and
sport, now there is research which shows the benefits of certain dietary strategies
to people who undertake sports.
Who would require the diet?
Professional sportsmen or women take a good deal of interest in what they eat
and often employ someone to provide direction or help them to eat their way
to a greater physical level. However, this does not mean that amateurs and recreational
sportsmen and women cannot achieve the same goal.
What is the diet and how does it work?
The purpose of the diet is to improve performance, for some people this is
improving strength, for others it is improving endurance; often it is a combination
of both. If a good diet is eaten then the ability to perform in the chosen sport
is improved by training, and by definition some improvement can be seen as a
result of the training. However a good diet cannot turn a mediocre sportsman
into a top professional.
The ideal diet is based on healthy eating principles with greater emphasis
on carbohydrate consumption, sadly eating more protein foods does not result
in greater amounts of muscle bulk. Muscle bulk can only be gained by training
the appropriate muscles.
Carbohydrates, when broken down in the body, produce glucose. There are limited
stores of glucose stored as glycogen, which is found in the muscles and the
liver. The muscles have a limited capability of storing glycogen, which is easily
depleted by activity. The aim is to keep glycogen stores high by refuelling
the muscle stores with carbohydrate.
Starchy carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereals, rice, and potatoes) should be
the mainstay of the diet. Other carbohydrates are useful especially if it is
necessary to eat a lot of food in order to prevent weight loss, as the bulk
of starchy carbohydrates can be too much to consume for some people.
The diet should be low in fat and normal amounts of protein are recommended.
Fruits and vegetables are also important as they provide good sources of vitamins
Bananas have become very popular as a sporting food snack, as they are easily
digestible and provide a good source of potassium (all fruits and vegetables
contain potassium), which is lost when sweating occurs. There is no magic ingredient
found in bananas as a sport food, just eat a healthy diet.
Following training or exercise when glycogen stores are depleted refuelling
(this is an important time immediately after exercise) with carbohydrates should
occur as soon as possible. As fluids are important, sports drinks are especially
important. Home-made sports drinks can be made using half orange juice and half
water with a tiny pinch of salt.
Will the diet harm me?
The diet should not be harmful, but it is known that some women in their quest
for a very low fat diet may eat a diet that is low in iron and risk becoming
anaemic (see Iron Deficiency Anaemia).
What else do I need to know?
Runners of all levels are more prone to 'runners trots' which is aggravated
by high fibre foods, a low fibre diet (see Low Fibre Diets) will help alleviate
Some sports people use creatine supplements as a natural method of increasing
muscle size for increasing their ability with some sporting activities such
as strength sports and sports where sprinting occurs. Protein foods naturally
contain creatine, but large amounts of protein would have to be eaten to achieve
the same levels. To obtain the maximum benefits from creatine it has to be taken
regularly with water to prevent stomach cramps although there are some supplements
that do not need water. Most recreational sports people find its expense prohibitive.
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