It is a well-known fact that athletes must have the right nutrition to stay healthy and perform at their best. For an athlete’s body to function properly, it needs the correct balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and fluids. A sports dietician needs to know what type of diet will help maintain an athlete’s health and optimize performance levels.
If you consider taking a nutritional supplement, discuss it with your doctor or Registered Dietitian first, as they can help you determine if it is right for you and make sure you are using a safe product from a reputable supplement manufacturer. Here are some macronutrients that athletes need.
The amount of protein you need depends on your age, gender, activity level, and muscle mass. For example, endurance athletes typically need more than strength training athletes because they are using up their existing stores faster through regular use or repair and growth. If you are not active, you will still need some protein to prevent muscle wasting due to inactivity. The amount of protein an athlete needs can also change depending on the intensity and duration of their training sessions and the type of sport they are involved in.
There are different protein powders available on the market, such as whey, casein, soy, egg, and hemp proteins. Whey protein is a by-product of cheese production and is absorbed quickly by the body, making it ideal for post-workout recovery drinks. Casein protein is found in milk and digests more slowly than whey, making it a good choice before bedtime or during extended training sessions. Soy protein is derived from soybeans and is a good alternative for vegetarians or those with dairy allergies. Egg protein comes from, you guessed it, eggs! It is rich in amino acids and easy to digest but can be expensive. Hemp protein is made from hemp seeds and is high in fiber and essential fatty acids.
Protein powders are not the only way to get the right protein into your diet. You can also find it in meat, poultry, fish, tofu, legumes, eggs, and dairy products. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is essential to eat various protein-rich foods to get all the essential amino acids your body needs.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) of protein for adult athletes is 0.36-0.55 grams per pound (0.8-1.2 grams/kg) of body weight. For example, a 150-pound (68 kg) person would need 54-82 grams of protein per day. That can be increased to 0.45-0.73 grams per pound (1-1.6 grams/kg) during intense training to help muscle recovery and growth.
Protein supplements are not necessary for most people who eat various protein-rich foods and get enough calories each day. However, they can be helpful for athletes who have difficulty meeting their protein needs through diet alone or who are looking for a convenient way to increase their intake.
Creatine is an amino acid found naturally in the body and helps supply energy to muscles. You can also find it in foods such as red meat and fish. Athletes often use creatine supplements to increase muscle mass and improve performance. You can find it in powder, capsule, tablet, or liquid form at health food stores, drugstores, and online retailers.
When taken as directed, creatine is generally safe. However, there are some potential side effects, such as weight gain, cramping, diarrhea, and dehydration.
The recommended dose of creatine is 0.3 grams per kilogram (0.14 grams per pound) of body weight per day. For example, a 150-pound person would need 20 grams of creatine per day. Most people will see results within the first week of supplementation, but it may take up to four weeks to see the full effects.
Sodium bicarbonate is a type of salt that helps buffer lactic acid in muscles, improving performance. It is found naturally in many foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. Sodium bicarbonate supplements are also available.
The recommended dose of sodium bicarbonate is 0.3 grams per kilogram (0.14 grams per pound) of body weight 30-60 minutes before exercise. For example, a 150-pound person would need 200-400 mg of sodium bicarbonate before working out. Potential side effects can include stomach upset and diarrhea.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that helps improve performance by increasing muscle carnosine levels. It is found naturally in many foods, such as meat, poultry, and fish. Beta-alanine supplements are also available.
The recommended dose of beta-alanine is 2-5 grams per day. Most people will see results within the first week of supplementation, but it may take up to eight weeks to see the full effects. Potential side effects can include tingling and flushing of the skin.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a type of amino acid that helps improve performance by reducing fatigue and increasing muscle endurance. BCAAs are found naturally in many foods, such as meat, poultry, and fish. BCAA supplements are also available.
The recommended dose of BCAAs is 2-5 grams per day. Most people will see results within the first week of supplementation, but it may take up to eight weeks to see the full effects. Potential side effects can include stomach upset and diarrhea.
These are just a few of the many nutrients that can help improve sports performance. Your doctor or Registered Dietitian can help you identify which ones will benefit you. Follow their instructions to stay safe and healthy.