The Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 is still on. Excitement is high across the globe, generated of course, from energy-sapping and skills-testing contests, from soccer to swimming, sprints to cycling, boxing to long jump amongst several others. But for one to become a Cristiano Ronaldo, a Serena Williams, or even our own Blessing Oborududu (wrestling) and Ese Brume (long jump) takes years of rigorous training and trillions of droplets of salty sweat.
Beyond mere dreams, for anyone to take the centre-stage to show one’s physical and mental worth also takes a combined knowledge of the daily exercises needed and sports nutrition. So, what is it all about?
According to Wikipedia, “sports nutrition is the study and practice of nutrition and diet with regards to improving anyone’s athletic performance. Nutrition is an important part of many sports training regimens, being popular in strength sports (such as weightlifting and bodybuilding) and endurance sports (e.g. cycling, running, swimming, rowing)”. It focuses its studies on the type, as well as the quantity of fluids and food taken by an athlete, including nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, supplements and organic substances, carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
There are significant factors that influence nutritional requirements of athletes. These include the gender, type of activity (aerobic vs. anaerobic), weight, height, body mass index, workout or activity stage (pre-workout, intro-workout, recovery). Even the time of day the exercise is carried out also matters. Some nutrients are utilised by the body more effectively during sleep than while awake.
A proper sports diet will definitely reduce the disturbances of fatigue, injury and soreness in performance. It is important to get a variety of food, and to consume all the macro-nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed. According to Eblere’s article (2008), eating foods that are natural means the athlete is getting the most nutritional value out of the food.It is therefore, ideal to choose raw foods. For instance, unprocessed foods such as oranges should be chosen instead of orange juice. The reason is because when foods are processed, the nutritional value is normally reduced.
When it comes to the factor of gender, there are obvious physical differences between male and female anatomy, while physiology is the same for the most part, how they metabolise nutrients do vary. Men have less total body fat but tend to carry most of their fat in the adipose tissue of their abdominal region. Adipose tissue is indirectly mediated by androgen receptors in the muscles. On the other hand, women have more total body fat that is carried in the subcutaneous layer of their hip region. So, women metabolise glucose by direct and indirect control of expression of enzymes.
As for the types of exercise, there are anaerobic exercises such as weightlifting, power sprints, strength resistances and quick explosive movement where the muscles are being used for power and speed, with short-time energy use. During anaerobic exercise, the process of glycolysis breaks down the sugars from carbohydrates for energy without the use of oxygen. After this type of exercise, there is a need to refill glycogen storage sites in the body (the long simple sugar chains in the body that store energy).
Although these types of sugar are not likely fully depleted or used up, they have to be compensated for this glycogen reduction. It means that athletes will often take in large amounts of carbohydrates, immediately following their exercise. Typically, high-glycemic-index carbohydrates are preferred for their ability to rapidly raise blood glucose levels.These includewhite and whole wheat bread, white rice, breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, potatoes and fries, chips and rice crackers.As for fruits those to be consumed are watermelon and pineapple. Dried fruits such as dates, raisins, are not left out.
As for proteins, according to Lemon et al.(1995) female endurance runners have the hardest time getting enough protein in their diet. Endurance athletes in general therefore, need more protein in their diet than the sedentary person. Research has shown that endurance athletes are recommended to have 1.2 to 1.4 g of protein per kg of body weight in order to repair damaged tissue.
If the athlete consumes too few calories for the body’s needs, lean tissue will be broken down for energy and repair. Protein deficiency can cause many problems such as early and extreme fatigue, particularly long recovery, and poor wound healing. Complete proteins such as meat, eggs, and soy provide the athlete with all essential amino acids for synthesising new tissues. However, vegetarian and vegan athletes frequently combine legumes with a whole grain to provide the body with a complete protein across the day’s food intake.
Fruits and vegetables contribute important carbohydrate foundation for an athlete’s diet. They provide vitamins and minerals that are lost through exercise and later needed to be replenished. It has been proved from researches that both fruits and vegetables improve healing, also aid in recovery, and reduce risks of cancer, high blood pressure, and constipation.
Vegetables offer a little more nutritional value than fruits for the amount of calories, therefore an athlete should strive to eat more vegetables than fruits. Dark-colored vegetables such as bitter leaf, ugu and efo usually have more nutritional value than pale colored ones. A general rule is the darker the color the more nutrient dense it is.
Nature always provides the cure to most of our ailments. Like all foods, it is very important to have a variety. To get the most nutritional value out of fruits and vegetables it is important to eat them in their natural, unprocessed form without added nutrients or sugar.
Oxidation damage and muscle tissue breakdown happens during endurance running so athletes need to eat foods high in protein in order to repair these muscle tissues. The foods that provide these nutrients include oats, peanut butter, broccoli, plain yogurt, dark chocolate, whole-grain pasta, coffee and potatoes. Generally, potatoes, like bananas, are a valuable source of potassium, making them a staple of every runner’s diet.
Aerobic exercise is also known as cardio because it is a form of cardiovascular conditioning. This includes exercises such as running, cycling, swimming and rowing. Athletes involved in aerobic exercise are typically looking to increase their endurance.
There are many options for supplements that athletes can take to assist with endurance like glycerol and guarana. Dietary supplements contain one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins; minerals; amino acids; herbs or other botanicals; and other substances) intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid.
Common energy supplements to increase an athlete’s energy include: Caffeine, Guarana, Vitamin B12, and Asian ginseng. Guarana is another supplement that athletes take to enhance their athletic ability; it is frequently used for weight loss and as an energy supplement.
WARNING: Drugs banned in sports include erythropoietin (epo or epoetinalfa), anabolic steroids, stimulants, human growth hormone and diuretics.
With such applied knowledge of sports nutrition, eventually the records are broken and all the seeds of training sown pay off with prestigious laurels and millions of dollars to the bargain.