Nutrition for Peak Performance

Nutrition for athletes

Athletes are often so keen to see results that they will go to all lengths in their attempts to succeed. However sometimes this can result in inflexible training regimes and strict dietary plans which may lead to being miserable and possibly not functioning optimally leading to poor performance. A flexible, open minded, science-backed approach is the best way to see nutritional and performance- based success. While nutrition by itself is important, it may have the greatest performance impact by allowing athletes to train consistently. Proper nutrition during the recovery period is essential for replenishing nutrient stores depleted during training, for example, muscle glycogen. Inadequate replenishment of energy, fluid, carbohydrates, proteins, and/or vitamins and minerals limits the potential for full recovery after training. Limited recovery can result in fatigue during the next training session, and consistent lack of nutritional replenishment can lead to chronic fatigue.

Nutrition in sport

Athletes perceive that nutrition is important, but they sometimes fail to realise that it is a factor that needs daily attention. They can get so focused on one small aspect of their diet that they neglect their comprehensive daily nutrition requirements.

As an athlete to optimise your performance you generally follow a program which has been written in a periodised manner to build your fitness and ready you for peak performance in a competition whilst also incorporating rest and recovery. To enhance your training even further, nutrition can also be periodised around your training. Corresponding to your training goals you can also have nutritional goals that support your training requirements. Every athlete is unique with different calorie, nutritional and hydration requirements. Planning an athletes’ optimal nutrition requires an individualised specific approach to ensure all nutritional needs are being met whilst supporting the athletes’ goals. Nutritional plans can be written in collaboration with the athletes coach and any other necessary personnel to maximise benefits for the athlete.

The following is an example of how periodised nutrition may be planned. During base training, the nutrition plan revolves around healthy, holistic eating that incorporates commonly found foods and supports an active athletes’ lifestyle. As the athlete shifts into an increase of intensity and volume during the build to the race, the periodised nutrition plan may include greater amounts of recovery protein sources and increased calories. The athlete may be given ideas for work-out based meals designed for optimum performance. Leading up to the race, the athlete may “carbohydrate load” which requires careful planning and instruction. The athlete will also begin practicing the pre-race meal prior to training workouts, and follow a pre-race dinner and breakfast plan. Finally, in recovery weeks and off-days, the periodised plan may incorporate foods and meals that are conducive to fat-burning, immune system recovery and tapered caloric intake.

Dunford M & Doyle J 2008, Nutrition for Sport and Exercise, Thomas Wadsworth. Moore D, Camera D, Areta J and Hawley J 2014, Beyond muscle hypertrophy: why dietary protein is important for endurance athletes 1. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 39(9), pp.987-997.

Munteanu A, Manuc D, Caramoci A, Vasilescu M and Ionescu A 2014, Nutrition timing in top athletes. Medicina Sportiva: Journal of Romanian Sports Medicine Society, 10(3), p.2357.

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