Optimum Nutrition Needed for Peak Performance in Sports
A varied and well-balanced diet is what every physically active person needs in meeting proper nutritional needs. Every training and recovery requires a comprehensive diet plan that would match every person’s physical demands. Also, specific needs will differ in accordance with individual factors like gender, age, height, and activity level.
In planning what to eat, the goal is to have at least five baseball-like size servings each day. Every serving should include adequate micronutrients, fats, carbohydrates, and water. Specifically, here are essential foods to include in your nutrition for peak performance in sports.
A healthy and balanced diet intended for active individuals should provide all the needed micronutrients. This diet would include zinc, potassium, calcium, B-vitamins, and many more taken from fruits and vegetables.
The use of convenient specialized products is not recommended for peak performance since they cannot replace a healthy balanced diet. Some of these products include energy bars, energy gels, meal replacements powders, and protein powders.
For people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet or restricting calorie intake, there is a need to get a dietician or nutritionist consultation. Inquire about whether a mineral supplement or a low-dose multivitamin is needed for you. You can look for the best women’s and men’s multivitamin 2019 here.
As a source of energy, fat is crucial in an athlete’s diet. However, these essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins should be taken in moderation. A low-fat diet is good for everyone, even if you are not an athlete. It is recommended to take fat around 30% of daily calories, which you can easily get from oily fish like salmon, vegetables spreads or oils, avocado, seeds or nuts.
Carbohydrates are one of the essential sources of energy. Typically, a regular diet is comprised of 25-35 kcal/kg body weight or around 1,800-2,400 calories per day. This consumption can provide enough fuel or energy for any training, in which an exercise session can burn 200-400 calories.
Approximately about 45-55% or about half of the daily calories are taken from carbohydrates, and this amount is enough for most people who are moderately active. For instance, a 154 lbs person would need about 210-350 g of carbs every day, which preferable would come from complex carbohydrates that contain fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Take a look at the following food. Each would provide you around 30 grams of carbohydrates.
- Four crispbreads
- Two slices of bread
- 45 g bowl of oats
- 145 g banana
- 150 g of potato
- 250 mL fruit smoothie
- 40 g uncooked pasta or rice (around ½ serving)
- 3 X 80 g of high-carb vegetables such as carrots, peas, sweetcorn and lentils
For very active individuals, who are performing regular high intensity exercise for 2-3 hours and 5-6 times per week, they more likely need to take more energy and consequently increase carbohydrate intake up to 55-65 % of total daily calories from low fiber, carbohydrate-rich foods such as non-wholegrain cereal products, white bread, fruit juices and smoothies, or a sports drink. The extra amount of carbohydrate increases together with the intensity of exercise.
Carbohydrate loading Diet is followed the week before a high-endurance activity. It is necessary for athletes who are taking part in competitions that last for more than one hour and a half (90 minutes).
It is useful to maximize their energy stores before the said events. This would involve eating around 10-12 carbs per kg of body weight each day for about one and a half-day before the event.
For example, for a person weighing 154 lbs, carbohydrate loading for “10-12 carbs/kg body weight/day” means taking 700–840 g carbohydrate each day, which would contribute to 2,800-3,350 kcal. Again, the intake of carbohydrates would be doubled, tripled, or even more for 1-12 days before the high-intensity exercise.
This meal plan involves different carbohydrate intake relative to exercise sessions, including eating high carbohydrate for competitions and training in a fasted state. This is called Periodized Carbohydrate Intake.
In addition, this diet plan would improve the performance of athletes, especially for those who will participate in endurance sports like 10 km races. Only a qualified sports dietician or nutritionist can provide a guaranteed periodized plan that will suit every athlete’s needs.
On the other hand, many claimed that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet improves athletes’ performance by increasing the amount of fat burned by muscles, reducing muscle reliance on carbohydrates. Nevertheless, research shows that a high-fat diet will decrease muscle efficiency during exercise, so a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet does not benefit performance.
Dietary protein is needed to repair and make new muscles after exercising. For people who regularly train, a 0.8 g protein per 1 kg of body weight each day is recommended. The same with extra carbs for people who intensely exercise, they also need extra protein. Around 1.4-2 g protein per 1 kg of body weight per day is recommended.
The following are protein-rich food that can give 10 g of protein.
- Two small eggs
- 200 g yogurt
- 300 mL soy milk or 250 mL cows’ milk
- 40 g cheese
- 150 g kidney beans
- 60 g nuts or seeds
- 50 g fish or chicken
- 120 g tofu
From the list, you can notice that the high-quality protein sources include eggs, milk, fish, and meat. These healthy foods contain high levels of essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis in muscles.
Studies show that for most active people, the optimal protein sources are found on milk proteins, such as whey and casein. This is because they are better absorbed in one’s body and can support muscle growth better than soy protein.
For vegans, daily needs for protein can be taken from different protein-rich plant foods like peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, and grains. Ultimately, do not exceed the protein recommendation. Excessive protein intake will lead to cause different chronic diseases on various organs, especially in your kidney.