Diet

Another often overlooked aspect of effective training and healthy living in general, a nutrient-rich, balanced diet is essential for any athlete in training.

 

There are many myths surrounding sports nutrition, and for the novice sportsperson it can be baffling trying to negotiate the minefield of misinformation that is to be found on a lot of websites. Conflicting advice is common, with one source insisting that, for example, when bodybuilding, athletes may eat anything they like (ie. junk food), with others insisting that athletes adhere to a strict, high-protein regimen consisting of large amounts of brown rice, lean chicken, fish and pulses. The truth is simple: everyone’s bodies, training programs and therefore dietary requirements are different, so anyone insisting that they have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet likely has little expertise in the science of nutrition.

 

One thing that can be said for certain, however, is that fast food and other high-calorie, fatty junk that has little or no nutritional benefit is best avoided. Unless someone is an Olympic athlete, and typically burns off more calories each day than a regular person burns in two or three, junk food is a bad idea; even if they do manage to burn off the vast amount of caloric energy contained in, for example, a typical large fast food restaurant soft drink (soda), the complete lack of any nutrients, in addition to a host of harmful chemicals makes them a thoroughly bad choice.

 

Hydration is another essential factor to consider. If neglected, in the short term athletes will find themselves experiencing cramps, fatigue, nausea, and many other unpleasant, performance-impairing symptoms. If neglected further, dehydration can lead to serious conditions that require hospitalization like heat stroke, and sometimes even death.

 

While it’s true that plain, chilled water is far and away the best thing to drink in order to stay hydrated, it is also important to consider the body’s salt levels. Salt plays a vital role in the transmission of nerve signals, and after vigorous exercise, a substantial quantity of the salt contained in the body will have been lost through sweating. It is therefore often necessary to supplement salt intake whilst training (particularly during hot weather), and this is achieved simply by the addition of a small quantity of salt (one quarter to one half of a teaspoon) per litre (32 ounces) of drinking water. An alternative is shop-bought sports drinks; they commonly contain salt (usually labelled ‘electrolytes’), and will do the exact same job.

 

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