Every athlete and sports enthusiast knows that nutrition plays a key role in getting the most out of exercise. What we eat before we play a sport or take part in any exercise can have a big impact on what we get out of it, as well as on the kind of performance that we can achieve. Nutrition generally – as well as the kinds of fluids we consume – has a significant effect on the general health of those who regularly participate in sports and proper nourishment can help avoid issues such as tiredness, cramping muscles, mood swings and restless legs.
Ideally, for anyone involved in sports, a meal before and a meal after the session is going to provide the optimum nutrition. Carbohydrates provide pre-sport energy and maintain blood sugar levels, which means that muscles can perform properly, and protein is also crucial to a good session. Foods rich in B vitamins will help to boost muscle function and energy, and Vitamin C is an essential part of having a great game or workout. Pasta, cheese and salad are always considered a good balanced meal pre-sport, as the dish contains the 70% carbohydrates that athletes need to take on before getting active. Wholemeal bread is another good source of carbs – sandwiches with leafy greens, chicken or egg, or peanut butter can provide a good energy boost, as well as lean steamed salmon, brown rice and a selection of vegetables. Incorporating calcium rich snacks like cottage cheese on ryvita, spiced broccoli and tofu, and sardines on toast can help combat the bone stress of exercise.
Whilst these foods and snacks are a good idea for nutrition generally, some sports need a slightly more specific approach to food consumption pre-match, event or game. Endurance sports such as a marathon or long distance running, for example, require an athlete to maintain energy levels over a significant distance, so bread, cereal, bagels, low fat yoghurt and low fat cheese provide sustenance without being too heavy. For sports that tend to require short, sharp bursts of energy – such as sprinting – stocking up on energy drinks and water to keep hydrated is essential, as well as potassium rich foods such as bananas and sultanas that will help prevent muscle cramps. Finally, with team sports like rugby and football it’s best to avoid high fibre and wheat based foods, as these can cause bloating and sit heavy in the stomach during a time when you need to be active. Porridge, an omelette and salad or a jacket potato with tuna or salmon provide starchy carbs without too much fat intake.
Activate Sport offers some fantastic courses where these types of nutrition can be put to great effect, with academies and camps in everything from dance to rugby. See the website for more details and sign up today to avoid disappointment!