By now, we all know that nutrition plays a huge part in our health. It’s taught in our schools, and there are thousands of articles online claiming to be able to tell you the perfect diet to cure all your woes. But research has shown that changing your diet can have a real, immediate effect on your sports performance. Here’s why.
Proper nutrition can help prevent a wide range of sports-related injuries and help you unlock your body’s full potential. While biomechanical changes take time, nutrition-related changes can be made relatively quickly and can have a marked effect on your performance.
Macronutrients are the basic building blocks of nutrition – they’re the components of food that we need the most of. There are only three types – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Most athletes need to maintain a specific combination of these factors to reach peak performance. Depending on what sport you’re in, your requirements will be different. Endurance athletes tend to need more carbohydrates in their diets because they provide instant energy, while strength-based athletes may want to focus more on protein because of its role in muscle building and repair. Your dietician should be able to recommend a balance that’s right for you.
Micronutrients are substances that your body requires in trace amounts to function. They are the vitamins and minerals your body uses to synthesize proteins and perform other tasks.
Some of the most important micronutrients for athletes include:
- Iron: The main component in hemoglobin, the protein responsible for transferring oxygen into your cells. Found in red meat, rice, wheat, oats, nuts, dark leafy greens, and beans.
- Vitamin D: Required for your body to be able to absorb calcium, and essential to the development of your nervous system and skeletal muscles. Found in fatty fish, egg yolks, butter, beef liver, cheese, and fish oil, as well as enriched foods such as milk, yogurt, and cereal
- Calcium: Essential to bone health, muscle contraction, nerve conduction, and blood clotting. Found in dairy products, leafy greens, and dried beans.