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What is sports nutrition?

 

At Siras Performance, we’re committed to improving the understanding of the mental benefits of sports nutrition and exercising.

Physical exercise is not only beneficial for your heart, joints and bones but for your mental health too. A recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26% (HelpGuide, 2021).

Have you ever noticed how refreshed and focused you feel after performing physical activity for 30 minutes or more? That’s because your endorphin levels are moving at light speed. Exercise enables the body’s central and sympathetic nervous systems to communicate which improves the body’s ability to manage and respond to stress constructively (Mental Health Foundation, 2021).

Whether you are new to a sport or have been training for many years, it is important to consider how you are going to assist your body in recovering and enduring through the sport that you are participating in.

Research has been conducted since the early 1900’s that supports the relationship between nutrition and physical exercise. We’ve provided….

Nutrition factors to consider with your sport and exercise regime:
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fluids
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Protein
  • Calorie consumption

Let’s break each of these factors down in a nutshell:

1. Carbohydrates

Prior to a race you can get carbohydrates from different types of foods. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as pasta, couscous, quinoa, rice, whole grain breads and vegetables: sweet potato, butternut, squash, broccoli and baby marrows. They provide energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These foods are also low in fat (Medline Plus, 2018).

Your body has a limited store of carbohydrate, roughly around 90 minutes of strenuous exercise. For longer endurance activities, your carbohydrates will need to be topped up to maintain your performance. During a race you should consider alternatives such as: sports drinks, gels and bars to top up your stores during exercise (High5, 2021).

After exercise, you should fuel your body with carbohydrates within 2 hours. A quick fix would be to supplement with a sports bar, a trail mix with nuts, or yoghurt and granola.

It is also important to note that more than 50% of your calorie intake should come from your carbohydrates.

2. Fluids

You may lose more than one litre of fluid every hour during endurance activities. It is important to replenish these fluids with supplements and water to ensure that you do not drop your performance or cramp.

Medline Plus (2018) recommends that you sip water during and after you exercise, about 1/2 to 1 cup (120 to 240 milliliters) of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes. Water is best for the first hour. You may then switch to an energy drink after the first hour, this will ensure that you are replenishing your lost electrolytes.

It is recommended that you always keep your preferred electrolyte supplement on hand.

3. Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals aid the body in recovery and performance and provide strength to the physical structure of the body. In endurance activity, Iron and electrolytes such as Magnesium are important for the delivery of oxygen to the body and cramping, respectively. Let’s zoom in on these. 

 Iron:

Iron assists in the energy metabolism. It is a critical component of hemoglobin and myoglobin, the two main proteins in charge of delivering oxygen to the body. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells, and encourages the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. Myoglobin resides within muscle cells, and is responsible for intracellular O2 transport and temporary oxygen storage (Walther, 2017).

Magnesium:

Denner (2021) explains that approximately 30% of the magnesium in your body is stored in our muscles. It is required for aerobic (= with oxygen) and anaerobic (= without oxygen) energy production. It facilitates muscle contraction and relaxation, hence why you hear of so many athletes utilising magnesium to avoid cramping.

Scientists have linked the high mineral content in blood to improved muscle performance such as leg strength. When you train with higher magnesium levels in your body, your heart rate and oxygen consumption are increased; Additionally this mineral assists the body with fighting diseases and bacteria, thus improving the immune system.

4. Protein

Protein may be used by the body for energy, but only after carbohydrate stores have been used up. Proteins provide small amounts of energy during exercise but it is important to consume it post-workout as they are the building blocks of the body that promote muscle growth and repair body tissues, thus may prevent muscle-loss and may build lean muscle (Institute for Optimum Nutrition, 2018).

Protein supplements have a variety of nutrients added and may be utilised if you are on the go but if you are preparing a meal, you can utilise protein rich foods such as high protein health breads, green veggies, eggs, nuts, dairy or meat.

5. Calorie consumption

Whilst we consider the above points, to ensure that your body is equipped to perform you need to provide it with enough calories to do so. With a balanced carbohydrate, protein and fat eating plan, you can effectively manage your consumption on a daily basis to ensure you are providing your body with the nutrients and calories to perform physically.

Remember that it is your journey. Listening to your body is essential in performing physically. Ensure that you are providing your body with the support that it needs, now that you’ve read this blog, you’re halfway there 😉 Now it’s time to take action!

’til next time,

Siras Performance

Please note: Always consult a health professional prior to changing your exercise and nutrition regimes to ensure its suitability for your individual situation. 


References

Denner, J. 2021. Why you need magnesium for better performance. https://www.runtastic.com/blog/en/magnesium-why-you-need-it-for-better-performance/

Healthdirect Australia. (2021, July 12). Exercise and mental health [Text/html]. Healthdirect Australia. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/exercise-and-mental-health

HelpGuide. 2021. The mental health benefits of exercise. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

High5. 2021. Understanding sports nutrition.  https://highfive.co.uk/blogs/guides/understanding-sports-nutrition

Institute for Optimum Nutrition. 2018. How does nutrition affect your sports performance? https://www.ion.ac.uk/news/nutrition-affect-your-sports-performance

Medline Plus. 2018.Nutrition and athletic performance. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002458.htm

Mental Health Foundation. 2021. How to look after your mental health using exercise. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-using-exercise

Walther, J. 2017. Iron is an essential mineral for athletic performance. https://blog.nasm.org/nutrition/iron-an-essential-mineral-for-athletic-performance

Weir, K. (2011, December). The exercise effect. Https://Www.Apa.Org, 42(11), 48.

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