Fueling Start / Stop Sports
Sports nutrition comes to mind easily for endurance athletes since the duration is so long that fueling is a necessary part of performance. Athletes involved in high intensity, intermittently played sports ( tennis, soccer, frisbee, basketball, hockey, wrestling, etc…) still require a focus on nutrition. In these sports, nutrition concerns are focused on obtaining ideal body composition, maintaining hydration, keeping energy levels high and recovering well for the next bout of training or competition. In many of these sports it is important to consider the stress of training which may be more intense and physically taxing than the competition itself.
Varies largely due to hours a week spent in training and current and desired body composition. Most athletes will have higher than expected needs due to the toll that start/ stop action puts on the body with intense, frequent bouts of physical activity and increased EPOC burn. A high amount of calories are also needed to recovery from the frequency of training and competition.
Again, this is highly dependent on each individual athlete based on training time. Most of sports will require an intake of 5-7g/kg of carbohydrate a day. Protein intake might be as high as 2g/kg to account for tissue rebuilding and weight control. Fat from calorie dense sources should fill in remaining calorie needs.
Fluids are especially crucial to these athletes. Many competitions take place outside in hot, humid temperatures where the body struggles to regulate and risk of cramping, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance is high. Start hydrating before the event and drink frequently throughout physical activity. Exact needs depend on body size, sweat rate, temperature, clothing, and tolerance. Athletes should aim to drink fluids enhanced with electrolytes that specifically contain ~500 mg of sodium per per hour. Drinking should continue after training or competition and pay attention to urine color and other hydration markers.
These sports typically involve a large amount of stomach movement and intensity which can lead to GI issues and sickness. To avoid these issues, athletes should eat early and stick to simple, bland foods that have been practiced often in training. Consuming 60grams of simple carbohydrate (banana, sports drink, gels) an hour before the event is advised to top off energy stores.
Intake needs during these sports is highly individual due to the duration of the training or competition. Many competitions do not allow for fueling outside of time outs or quick breaks. Athletes should utilize these breaks to consume fluids and energy to prevent early onset of fatigue that will hinder performance.
The recovery meal is especially important in sports that do not allow athletes to adequately replenish needs during the event. Aim to consume 60 grams of immediate carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores followed by roughly 25 grams of protein to rebuild muscles. Normal, healthful meals should be resumed around 2 hours later when the athlete regains a normal sense of hunger and desire to eat. If the appetite does not return or is chronically low, athletes should rely on nutrient dense liquid meals.
Many athletes involved in a competitive season in a start/ stop sport is subjected to frequent travel. This makes maintaining a nutrient rich diet difficult. These athletes should work to develop go-to travel ready fuel and have a quality cooler/ travel equipment on hand. Building a standard day to day diet that is easy to take on the road (think fruit, oats, sandwiches, chocolate milk, crackers, bars, simple rice/pasta bowls).
In sports where making weight or maintaining a lean body composition is required, athlete need to focus on consuming lower energy but highly nutrient dense foods. Vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are extremely vital to optimal health and recovery. The diet should be filled with colorful fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables, whole grains, quality protein, oils, nuts and seeds while limiting ‘extras’ such as processed, packaged foods and snacks.