Sports nutrition is a very highly regarded field of modern sports medicine, which helps athletes to keep their bodies in good condition before, after, and during exercise, so as to achieve optimal performance. In that sense, different nutrients are explored for their potential to optimize athletic performance, especially when engaged in high-intensity sports which involve repetitive activity. Therefore a competent sports nutritionist must have adequate command over such disciplines as nutrition, including the biochemistry of nutrients and the way they are metabolized during intensive physical activity, exercise physiology, and how an athlete’s body differs from the average non-athletes in terms of functional performance and resting metabolism, as well as psychological aspects of sports.
Important Areas in Sports Nutrition
Sports nutrition is a fast-growing area of research and practice. Some important areas covered in sports nutrition include:
How protein utilization in the body is affected by exercise The timing and composition of meals in relation to their best anabolic response in the athlete. How essential are the essential amino acids The role and use of carbohydrates in sports activities How beneficial is ribose in the performance of high-intensity athletics and sports How important is creatine in sports Proper hydration in athletic activity and its influence on athletic performance
Protein is important for the athlete, and thus the recommended intake is from 1.2 to 1.6 g/kg, depending on whether the focus is on strength or endurance. Moreover, meal timing makes a big difference in the amount of protein actually incorporated into the body, which can affect how new muscle mass is created by exercise (which is also known as lean body mass). Again, a small number of amino acids in the right ratio and of the right types can be timed correctly, such as just before or just after a session of endurance exercise or weight-building, in order to ensure that protein building is maximal. The observed gain is thus greater rather than that achieved with just exercise alone.
Sports Nutrition in Young Athletes
Nutrition in young athletes is equally worthy of attention. This is because it allows equivalent attention to be paid to their growth in the critical growing-up years, as well as to their performance and skill. It is important to provide a balanced diet with all the required macronutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids, as well as vitamins and minerals. Fluids are also essential. These young athletes should be advised on what and when to eat and drink in relation to sports activity. Creatine is a nutrient that has been in the limelight for quite some years. It is termed an ergogenic aid and is thought to provide a much-needed energy boost. Creatine supplements are thought to improve the power of muscle contraction at maximal contraction. Another strategy to achieve this includes the use of dietary ribose, a pentose sugar that is involved in carbohydrate metabolism in the body. Muscle strength and growth are both optimized by carefully balancing the intake of proteins and carbohydrates. In addition, the right amounts of calcium, iron, vitamin D, and fluids need to be worked out in relation to the type of activity. This kind of guidance will help prevent damage and improve the strength and size of the muscles, as well as help the athlete achieve the best performance.
WHAT ABOUT HYDRATION?
Yes, hydration is also another key component of sports nutrition since you will be dealing with highly active individuals. And what happens when we are active? We sweat! Losing just 2% of your body weight in fluids can lead to a significant decrease in aerobic performance. Therefore, ensuring adequate fluid consumption for athletes and active individuals is very important.
If exercise is 60 minutes are less, water alone will be an adequate hydrator. Once exercise begins to exceed 60 minutes or is taking place in a very hot/humid environment, the addition of electrolytes will be needed to replace those lost in sweat. Electrolytes are responsible for maintaining fluid balance and are essential for normal muscle contractions. Losing electrolytes in excess is what leads to early fatigue and cramping. Therefore, consuming electrolyte beverages during exercise for greater than one hour can enhance performance. Since enhancement in performance is the name of the game in sports nutrition, being very well versed in the field of supplements is crucial. This is one of the most widely asked topics, so understanding which supplements have merit vs which do not is key to providing your clients with helpful information.
First, supplements should not be recommended unless they pass these 5 cardinal rules:
• The supplement lists every individual ingredient.
• The supplement is tested for banned substances.
• Look for these labels: "NSF Certified Sport", "BSCG", and "Informed Choice".
• The supplement uses branded ingredients/raw materials.
• Dosages are based on scientific research.
• The supplement meets cGMP manufacturing standards and contains a banned substance label.
So, ultimately what does your day-to-day look like if you were a sports nutrition coach? The obvious duties of a sports nutrition coach will commonly take place in performance-based locations such as gyms and training centers. You will spend most of the time monitoring your client's training and educating them on how to fuel appropriately during those sessions. You'll spend many hours educating them on the importance of nutrient timing and the use of supplements to maximize both their performance and recovery. Additionally, you will also likely be performing body composition analyses.
EVERYBODY IS DIFFERENT
Understanding body composition as it relates to various athletics is a vital component of the field. Many times, having leaner compositions is advantageous in endurance-based sports, and having higher body fat and more muscle is advantageous in power sports. An extensive knowledge base in ideal body composition ranges for various sports will help guide your clients to appropriate, healthy body composition. But what are the not-so-obvious duties? While it's important to stay within your scope, having training in counseling, understanding psychology, and even being familiar with medical conditions or injuries is important to becoming a sports nutritionist. Disordered eating patterns, food phobias, and distorted body images are very common in the world of sports — understanding how to counsel clients with these behaviors is pivotal to their performance. With active individuals comes injuries — knowing how to aid and enhance healing processes is important.
Sports nutrition is far more encompassing than understanding the basics of nutrition. It is using the science of food in combination with physiology to manipulate certain systems within our bodies to achieve the desired performance result. While the umbrella of sports nutrition might seem small, you will quickly learn that many other fields are involved in its making. Working within athletics is very challenging, and understanding the culture, the psychology, and even clinical aspects of sports and fitness is required to be successful in the field.
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