10 Common Sports Nutrition Questions
As a professional sports dietitian and blogger, I get plenty of questions about fueling for performance. Over the years I have received some pretty odd and interesting questions. However, for the most part the questions people have about how to best eat for performance are concentrated around a few main topics. To help clear the air, I'm going to share the most common questions I get, along with my answers to them.
It's important to remember that to eat for optimal performance, it's best to take a personalized approach. Your needs are unique based on age, gender, food preferences, current health status, current training, body composition and future goals. These answers are intended to give you some basic information to get you started. For in-depth, individualized answers, reach out for personalized nutrition coaching with a sports dietitian who has experience working with similar athletes to you.
How much do I need to eat?
Most people burn 1400 to 1800 calories just to stay alive and perform basic life functions each day. On top of that, athletes require additional calories to support the energy expended through training. This can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand depending on the duration and intensity of the training. In short, you need to eat a lot, likely more than you already are, to support general good health and promote efficient energy usage during training.
I can't seem to eat anything during training, what can I do?
The gastric system is sensitive, and if you are competing in a sport that jostles the stomach around, like running or hurdling, or are experiencing competition nerves, keeping food down can be difficult. You may also be sensitive to certain types of sugar. In any case, start by eating small bites of food or sips of drinks an hour before training and work your way up to taking in small bites both before and during training until you can tolerate the full amount you need. Make sure to take in additional recovery nutrition to replenish the body until you are able to take in enough before and during training to support your exercise.
Do I really need to have recovery nutrition?
Yes and no. For athletes who are tackling two-a-day workouts or high-volume training, consuming a combination of protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes is key to rapidly replenishing the body so it is ready for the high demands of your training routine. For athletes doing shorter workouts with roughly 24 hours between sessions, rapidly replenishing the body is not necessary as long as a high-quality diet is consumed.
Should I eat before a morning workout?
If you're heading out on a very hard or long training session, then yes, it is going to be beneficial to top off energy stores after a night's fast. If the training is short or not a key performance session, you can likely complete the session without extra fuel. When working out on empty, you might not feel as energized as usual, but that's normal. However, if you feel faint or dizzy, stop and eat something. Fasted workouts can provide adaptations in the body that might lead to enhanced performances later on when the correct fuel is provided.
Is one diet better than others?
The best diet is the one that works for you. For most of us, that isn't a 'diet' at all, it is a way of eating that is balanced, largely unprocessed, mindful and includes a large variety of foods.