Do nutrition plans need to be made differently for resting and competitive phase for sports athletes?

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Sports nutrition lays the foundation of athlete success. The plan is well designed to suit the needs of the athlete enabling them to train well and perform their best. Like diets vary from individual to individual based on their daily requirements and body needs, sports nutrition diets also vary and may even vary from day to day too, depending on specific energy demands. The body needs different inputs in different phases. As per the best nutritionist in Bangalore, sports nutrition aims to supply the body with the just the right amount of energy, nutrients, as well as fluids to keep the body well fed, hydrated and functioning at peak levels thereby supporting the body throughout the physical stress and building.

Every athlete goes through phases- competitive and resting. While competitive phases, as the name suggests is more about playing of the actual sport against contenders, resting phase is more about the repair and building of the athlete’s body. Individual goals for athletes may vary from improving their body composition to enhancing their performance as an athlete to gaining lean mass or some other goal. These scenarios are specific and unique to different sports and thus require nutritional programs that are unique to fulfilling these goals.

The athletes need to eat for endurance, strength as well as for improving performance. Endurance programs are defined as exercise periods that range from the duration of one to three hours requiring high energy intake in the form of carbohydrates. According to research, target carbs consumption for such periods of heavy exercise range from 6g to 10g per kilogram of body weight per day. Fat can be taken in as a secondary source of energy for these long hour durations of heavy physical activity and training. Athletes in such programs run a high risk of getting dehydrated due to inefficient replacement of the fluids lost in the workout hours. Replacing the fluids and electrolytes lost during these sessions due to sweat is necessary for peak performance. Depending upon the athlete and his extent of physical activity, the fluid loss might be replaced through supplements along with other foods. The need of supplements arises due to the large amount of body requirements that is difficult to be fulfilled by natural food items.

Eating for building strength usually supports resistance programs that athletes indulge in to gradually build the strength of skeletal muscle. This kind of training is a typically high intensity workout requiring larger amounts of all macronutrients sufficient for muscle development. Protein is one such micronutrient whose requirement in the human body becomes very high as the athlete indulges in high intensity workouts and training sessions. Protein is vital in the process of increasing and maintaining lean body mass. Research indicates that protein requirements in athletes can vary from 1.2g to 3.1g per kilogram of body weight per day, impossible to supply to the human body without supplements.

Endurance and strength programs typically form the resting periods of an athlete and as mentioned above, these periods have a different requirement of nutrients and thus a different diet plan to support these programs and yield optimal results.

The other phase i.e. the competitive phase refers to the crucial times of preparing for competitions and doing the actual sport and performing what the athlete has been training to do and so the nutritional requirements will again vary. Pre and post competition meal planning are unique for each athlete and essential for optimal dietary planning. The time of actual competition is a period that requires more energy sources for the athlete to maintain his energy stores and perform optimally to give out a high energy output. The dietician would carefully plan for such occasions in a manner unique to the sport and the athlete’s body requirements in the main hours. Muscle building etc. takes a back seat in this period whereas hydration and energy becomes the major sources of concern for the athlete as well as the nutritionist.

Another important aspect in planning nutrition for the competitive phase is ensuring adequate hydration and electrolytes that are essential for health and athletic performance. We all lose water throughout the day, but active adults and athletes lose additional body water as well (and a significant amount of sodium) because of sweating during intense competition hours. This process of losing body water, and fluid deficits greater than 2 percent of body weight can lead to compromising of athletic performance and the athlete’s cognitive function. So, as per the best nutritionist in Chennai, athletes are thus recommended in their nutrition plans to use fluid replacement strategies as part of their sports nutrition to maintain optimal body functioning and avoid critical problems and damages to their body. Rehydration with water is not enough in most cases and special sports drinks containing sodium are often prescribed depending on the athlete and sporting event.

Training sessions and resting phases also have their share of workout and the required hydration is taken care for these phases as well but for the competition phase, this becomes an even bigger concern. An athlete’s performance as well his recovery and health post the competition depends highly on adequate hydration and a sufficient amount of electrolytes.

All athletes need to work closely with their nutritionists to carefully prepare a plan that supports their resting phases as well as competitive phases. As we have already discussed, the body goes through different kinds of physical work throughout these phases and thus require a different food plan to cater to them. A close study about the sport and the athlete’s body is required to create different meal plans for best results.