How to Improve Sporting Performance With Sports Nutrition

With Expert Insights From
Injury Expert Johnny Wilson
Johnny Wilson
Clinical Director 108 Harley Street

Find out how to employ a fit-for-purpose sports nutritional plan that enables you to exercise at a higher intensity, for longer.

The importance of a sports nutritional plan

There is an old saying that “you are what you eat”. If you eat a well balanced, healthy diet you will generally be a healthy individual, and if you eat to the contrary the same holds true.

When it comes to improving sporting performance, there is no getting away from the fact that without an adequate sports nutritional plan you will never reach your sporting potential, it simply is that important.

So let’s look at how to improve sporting performance, and specifically:

  • What does ‘Sports Nutrition’ mean?
  • How can a Sports Nutritional Plan improve your sporting performance?
  • What are the key ingredients of a Sports Nutritional Plan?

Sports Nutrition – it’s a big rock!

Of course, there are many factors which must gel together to orchestrate a great sporting performance, such as a positive mindset, proper sleep hygiene, a deliberate training schedule, practicing your skillset on a regular basis and proper rest and recovery. However, one of the biggest rocks of all is a fit-for-purpose Sports Nutritional Plan.

So what is sport nutrition?

Simply put, sports nutrition relates to any nutritional ingredient that can improve your ability to perform exercise or enhance training outcomes, such as building muscle, reducing body fat, increasing power, speed and stamina.

How can a sports nutritional plan improve sporting performance?

Instigating a well planned out Sports Nutritional Plan can help delay the onset of exercise induced fatigue during training or competition. In essence, employing a well planned sports nutritional plan means that you can exercise at a higher intensity for longer.

To illustrate this point I will use football as an example…

In football, repeated high intensity sprints are an integral component of the game. Top level players are capable of carrying out high intensity explosive sprints hundreds of times over short distances throughout the course of a 90 minute game.

Being adequately hydrated and having optimum amounts of glycogen (carbohydrates which are broken down by the body and stored in the muscles) provide the fuel to enable the player to be able to carry out these sprints, right up until the final seconds of the game.

On the contrary, if they become dehydrated, and glycogen depleted by lets say the 60th minute in the game, they will no longer be able to carry out these explosive sprints for the remaining 30 minutes.

The effects of this are widespread.

Being beaten by your opponent again and again for the final 30 minutes can play an integral role in missed opportunities to score or defend.

Fatigue related injuries, and substitution by the manager, can have a meaningful impact during the game and the final score.

What are the key ingredients of a sports nutritional plan?

I like to keep things very simple when it comes to Sports Nutriitonal Plans. Although everyone is different, below are outlined the major principles of an adequate Sports Nutritional Plan.

Principle #1

First principle is that you need to understand the nutritional demands of your sport.

For example, during a 90 minute football match a player may consume an additional 600 to 1200 calories during the game, dependent on their position and how active they were during the game. Therefore, you need to ensure that you have eaten and drunk enough to meet these calorie demands.

Principle #2

Secondly, you need to recognise if you want to maintain your current weight, lose some weight or put some additional muscle mass on.

This again will play an important role in the amount of food you take on during training, non-training and competition days.

Sports Nutritional Plan Checklist

Here’s a checklist of the big rocks when planning your sports nutrition plan:

  1. Hydration
    Ensure you are adequately hydrated every day by taking on enough water.
  2. Energy Drinks
    Only consume sports energy drinks immediately prior to, and during, training and competition.
  3. Diet
    Ensure you have a healthy balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and high quality carbohydrates.
  4. Digestion
    Try and eat your last substantial meal at least 3 hours before training or competition.
  5. Pre Event
    Consume at least 500ml of a low concentrate carbohydrate drink in the 60 minutes leading up to the event.
  6. During Event
    Try and consume 500ml per hour of exercise.
  7. After Event
    After training or competition, ensure you replace any lost fluids as quickly as possible.
  8. Carb Loading
    After training or competition, try to eat a substantial carbohydrate based meal as soon as possible. Your insulin sensitivity is particularly high in the first hour after exercise, meaning that it’s easier to replace your glycogen stores in the muscles.

The 24/7 mindset

In conclusion, a proper Sports Nutrional Plan doesn’t just start on the day of the competition. You have to take on the mindset of being a 24/7 athlete.

In order to perform at your very best, preparation for your next training session or competition begins the moment you finish the last one.

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