Best Sports Nutrition Diet Plan; The athlete’s diet is a decisive factor for the practice of a regular sporting activity, whether high level or simply leisure. The respect of essential food rules is beneficial for the health of the athlete. In addition, a healthy and balanced diet contributes to improving sports performance.
Sports Nutrition Diet Plan | Food and Health of the Athlete
The practice of a sporting activity is beneficial for health in more than one way. A healthy and balanced diet is nevertheless crucial to guarantee good sports performance, both for amateurs and high-level athletes. At the sportsman’s, the respect of the basic food rules allows in particular:
- Better support training sessions;
- Minimize the risk of injury and accidents;
- To recover better after training and competitions;
- To stabilize body weight over the medium – long term.
The athlete’s diet must be healthy and balanced. It depends on several factors, such as:
- The sex of the athlete;
- His age ;
- Practiced sport;
- Level of practice;
- The intensity of the practice.
The energy needs of the athlete
Like any other person, the athlete, of high level or of leisure, must respect the main principles of a healthy and balanced diet , as they are described in the National Program Health Nutrition (PNNS) .
If the athlete’s diet must be balanced, it must above all guarantee the coverage of the athlete’s nutritional and energy needs. The athlete has the right to consume all food groups, but must ensure a good distribution among the three main categories of macronutrients:
- Carbohydrates (fast sugars and slow sugars);
- Proteins (proteins);
- Lipids (fats).
To note ! Top athletes are usually followed by a nutritionist who follows them and advises them on their diet, in order to optimize their sports performance, while ensuring their good health.
The coverage of daily energy needs is a crucial element for sports performance. A nutritional deficit is indeed likely to alter sports capabilities. The energy needs of the athlete depend on several factors:
- The age of the athlete;
- Her sex;
- His size;
- The type of sporting activity;
- The level of training.
Logically, the energy needs are all the more important as the sport is intensive and regular. The daily requirements for macronutrients are generally as follows:
- In carbohydrates, between 3 and 10 grams per kg of body weight;
- In protein, between 1.2 and 2.5 grams per kg of body weight;
- In lipids, at least 1 to 1.2 grams per kg of body weight.
To know ! Daily protein intake should never exceed 10 to 15% of total energy intake. The maximum daily protein intake is set at 2.5 grams per kg of body weight, a significant amount of protein that must remain limited in time (less than 6 months in the year). An athlete does not need a high protein diet to increase his sports performance. If they use protein supplements, they must not represent more than one third of daily protein intake.
Prevention of deficiencies in athletes
In parallel with the daily energy needs covered by the consumption of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, athletes must be careful to limit the risk of micronutrient deficiencies, i.e. vitamins and minerals .
If dietary supplements and vitamin supplements are available on the market to bring vitamin and mineral cocktails, most often a healthy and balanced diet is enough to cover all nutritional needs.
To date, scientific data have not clearly established whether the practice of a sports activity, especially at a high level, leads to an increase in micronutrient requirements. The nutritional recommendations follow those of the general population for the recommended daily intake of minerals and vitamins.
To know ! A micronutrient supplementation in an athlete with neither deficit nor deficiency does not improve his sports performance.
To respect these recommendations, athletes must consume daily or very regularly the following foods :
- Fresh fruits and vegetables;
- Eggs ;
- Milk and dairy products;
- Seafood (fish and seafood);
- Unrefined and complete cereals;
A different diet at rest and training
While sports diet must essentially be balanced and respect the nutritional recommendations in force, it must also adapt to the different times of sports. In fact, the food intake varies according to the athlete’s situation: at rest, during training or in competition.
Scientific studies have shown that food intake during training is able to influence the improvement of sports performance related to adaptations of the body to effort. Similarly, feeding during a competition should not hinder sports performance.
Before physical exercises, athletes must consume food and drink easily digested, not to suffer digestive disorders at the time of the effort. It is difficult to determine an ideal time to eat before training or competition, each athlete learns the optimal time between a meal and physical effort. In general, it is not recommended to eat during the 3 to 4 hours that precede an intense physical effort.
In the days preceding a competition, it is advisable to increase energy inputs in anticipation of efforts. In addition, some foods are recommended, such as:
- Complete and varied foods, providing all the nutrients;
- Foods rich in complex carbohydrates (starchy foods).
Just before physical exercise or competition, specialists make several recommendations for the athlete’s diet :
- Drink enough, at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day.
- Limit foods high in fat or fiber.
- Focus on simple and complex carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose.
- Adapt the quantities ingested according to the time before exercise.
During a sporting event or training, it is essential to prevent dehydration by drinking often and in small amounts. It is also possible to consume simple carbohydrates, for example in the form of sugary drinks or fruits, especially when the physical effort lasts a long time.
To note ! During the effort, perspiration can cause dehydration, which is manifested by muscle pain, tendon and ligament, but also strains, sprains or nephritic colic. Dehydration also harms athletic performance.
After the physical effort comes the recovery phase, during which the diet plays an essential role again. On a nutritional level, recovery after exercise is divided into three phases:
- Rehydration, by drinking a volume greater than the loss of water caused by the effort and by privileging an alkaline water to neutralize the lactic acid produced during the effort;
- The restoration of glycogen reserves (form of storage of sugars in the body), by consuming simple and complex carbohydrates very quickly after exercise, but also proteins;
- Muscle recovery, by consuming proteins.
Drinks are just as important to the athlete as the foods eaten. Indeed, any physical effort causes water loss, which must be compensated to reduce the risk of dehydration and its consequences.
Each athlete, according to his own characteristics, but also his sports practice, must assess his hydric needs at rest, before, during and after the effort. He must not wait for the sensation of thirst, which already shows the beginning of dehydration, harmful to physical abilities.
In most cases, water is the only drink recommended by the athlete. Energy drinks, or sports drinks, can be useful or even necessary in some contexts, especially for high-level athletes. The addition of carbohydrates and sodium in these drinks help to minimize the risk of dehydration. However, they must imperatively be diluted in hot weather.
The sportsman’s diet in practice
Just like the nutritional recommendations intended for the general population, it is possible to list some basic food rules for athletes:
- At each main meal, consume fruits and vegetables, a source of protein, starchy foods and a small amount of fat, if possible of vegetable origin.
- On the day, consume at least 3 dairy products.
- Be well hydrated by regularly drinking water.
- Focus on unprocessed foods.
- Divide the dietary intake over the different meals of the day (three main meals and a snack).
- Consume sugary foods in reasonable quantities and banish both fatty and sugary foods.
- Limit alcohol consumption and suppress smoking.
- Avoid overly rich meals after physical exertion.
- Limit the use of supplements and dietary supplements. Seek advice from a health professional if needed.
Sport and weight
The sporting practice can have for objective an action on the body weight, in one way or in the other:
- To lose weight, by increasing the energy expenditure of the body;
- To increase muscle mass in fitness programs.
In these contexts, nutritional recommendations should not be forgotten in order not to risk developing deficiencies or injury. A dietetic follow-up can be instituted to accompany in a personalized way and adapted the sportsman in his step.
To function properly, the human body needs energy (that is, calories). These energy needs are covered by food. Individual energy needs depend on age, sex and physical activity. To stay healthy, an individual not only needs energy but also regular intake of more than 40 nutrients. These nutrients are: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins , minerals and water.
Different needs in a healthy individual
The energy requirements of a healthy adult are the sum of the following:
- Rest energy expenditure (ERD)
- Physical activity
- Thermal effects of food
DER and physical activity are the most important contributors to energy needs .
The energy requirements of a patient include not only the aforementioned elements but also the additional needs related to the disease. To calculate the energy requirements of a patient, one can use the Harris Benedict equation or another validated equation.
In some centers, a patient’s DER is measured by indirect calorimetric, which consists of performing inspired and expired gas measurements. In this way, the specific energy requirements of a patient can be measured more precisely, which facilitates the adjustment of dietary treatments.
Proteins are essential structural components of tissues, hormones and many body fluids. They are essential for the healing of wounds and the maintenance of immune functions. If necessary, the proteins can be metabolized to provide energy, to the detriment of their more important functional roles mentioned above.
According to the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) in the French-speaking world, a healthy adult man needs 63 grams of protein per day. In clinic, protein requirements are usually expressed per kilogram of weight: they are 0.8 to 1 g of protein per kilo in a healthy subject.
Example : for a man weighing 70 kilos, this represents 56 to 70 g of protein per day, which is consistent with the RDA.
However, in case of illness, protein requirements increase: in case of burns and trauma, they reach 1.5 to 2.5 grams per kilo (ie for example 105-175 grams of protein per day for a man of 70 kilos).
Fat requirements (lipids or fatty acids)
Normally, fats represent 20 to 40% of the daily energy intake. To prevent chronic diseases ( cardiovascular diseases , obesity and cancer ), it is recommended that total fat intake is less than 30% of daily energy intake. Lipids are found in oils, fats (butter, margarine, lard, etc.), meat, fish, poultry and dairy products.
There are two essential fatty acids: linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid that must be brought by the diet.
Linoleic acid is the only essential fatty acid in the omega 6 family. Linoleic acid is present in almost all vegetable oils: borage oil, evening primrose, blackcurrant, hemp … It is recommended that consume 2 to 7 grams per day.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a member of the omega-3 family. It is found mainly in oilseeds, linseed, hemp, krill and rapeseed oil, oil and pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and oily fish (such as salmon). It is recommended to consume 1.1 to 1.5 grams per day.
Deficits in fatty acids are rare in adults, except in cases of severe malabsorption of fat.
Water is an essential nutrient. In adults, daily water consumption is normally around 2 liters. The fluid needs are increased in case of fever and burns and in some other situations.
We can also calculate the fluid needs according to the weight: the usual consumption in the adult is 30 to 35 ml of water per kilo and per day.
The different needs of a sick individual
In general, all nutrient requirements are increased in case of trauma or illness. In case of trauma, surgery and illness, the body needs nutrients for healthy tissue and other nutrients for wound healing and tissue regeneration.
During serious illnesses, it is imperative to ensure adequate nutritional intake.
It is also important not to overfeed a seriously ill person. Excessive intake of calories can make medical treatment and weaning of assisted ventilation more difficult.
This highlights the importance of properly assessing nutritional status.
Energy needs of the diabetic subject
In case of diabetes , diet has a role all the more important. A balanced diet will have beneficial effects on blood sugar.
Here is an example of a balanced plate:
- 50% of your meal should consist of fresh produce, such as vegetables, salad and a dairy product.
- 25% of the meal should consist of starchy foods such as pasta, or rice.
- The last quarter is composed of animal proteins such as meat, poultry, fish.