Nutrition to optimise your performance

Nutrition DuringFood and drink are the fuel that we use to power our bodies and so they make an enormous difference to energy and performance. There are plenty of information sources on what to eat and drink before sport, but what about in the midst of a match or event itself?

In some cases – for example the 100m sprint, there is no need (and no time) to consume anything during the sport itself and eating and drinking can be done either before or after the event. However, a marathon, football match, or an all day cycle race are a very different kettle of fish and will require consideration of how to keep the body going throughout that time.

According to the professionals, exercising for an hour – or more – is the point at which the body starts to need fluid replacement as much is lost due to sweat in that time. The options for consuming anything during sport tend to be either water, sports drinks or energy drinks. Sports drinks have become particularly popular, as they provide more than just rehydration, are able to delay tiredness and replace lost minerals too. They are basically made up of water, salt, carbohydrates (glucose, fructose, sucrose or maltodextrin) and citric acid to taste. Carbohydrates in the drinks help keep the body going and hold fatigue at bay – according to Gatorade, 6% carbohydrate is the optimum level for refreshing the body at speed during sport. Electrolytes and minerals like sodium and potassium are often lost through sweat during sport and sports drinks can replace these as you go, rather than leaving a deficit at the end of the session.

There has been quite a lot of talk about whether or not sports drinks are really worth the money, whether they work and if so, why. However, the fact that many professionals still continue to use them would suggest that they do have a benefit. If you want to keep your body in peak condition during sport you don’t necessarily have to pay for the shop bought drinks, as it’s actually quite easy to make your own. You just need to mix fruit squash (not low sugar or low calorie) with a quarter of a teaspoon of salt for every 800ml of water and 200ml of juice. This provides around 6-7% carbohydrates, depending on the squash. Alternatively, you could combine maltodextrin powder (six teaspoons) with water (700ml), salt (a quarter of a teaspoon) and a squeeze of lemon for the same results.

Nutrition during sport is key to ensuring peak performance, particularly with sports that require more endurance. Not only can it help boost achievement but it will ensure a better all round experience too.

photo credit: dominikgolenia via photopin cc