How to avoid nutrition errors that limit your athletic performance
A sports diet and physical well-being are an essential combination for all athletes. Otherwise, they risk tiredness, fatigue, and poor performance, as well as an increased likelihood of injuries. Proper sports nutrition should not be underestimated, because what we eat is indispensable for maintaining the right intake of energy and nutrients and, ultimately, our performance.
First and foremost, a sports diet must be balanced. Both competitive athletes and amateurs need to balance the various food groups, as this is the only way to fully develop speed, strength and power with training.
Carbohydrates should account for approximately 55-60% of our total dietary calorie intake, but preferring those contained in cereals, tubers and pulses. “Simple” sugars, i.e. those contained in jam, sugar and sweets, should only constitute a minor part of our carbohydrate intake. Proteins are the second layer of the pyramid and should account for approximately 15% of our total calorie intake. Once again, it is advisable to opt for variety, by combining protein foods of animal origin – meat, fish, eggs and dairy produce – with plant-based protein foods, like pulses and cereals. These foods are essential for an athlete’s sports diet because, in addition to guaranteeing energy, they allow tissue repair in the case of damage during physical activity. Last come lipids – oils and fats of various kinds – which should constitute 25-30% of sports nutrition, as they are essential for providing the body with energy, but also for protecting our vital organs, transporting vitamins and keeping the appetite under control.
No food should be banned, rather it should be incorporated into a sports nutrition plan. Red meat, for example, is a source of iron, an important mineral that is indispensable for physical well-being, because it helps to reduce tiredness. Furthermore, a healthy, balanced diet must never lack a good dose of vitamin C which, in addition to boosting the immune defences, is fundamental for absorbing iron.
- What to consume before a workout
First of all, alcohol is to be avoided at all costs. Alcohol increases the risk of dehydration which, in addition to having an adverse effect on performance, can be dangerous. In addition, when we drink alcohol our body accumulates triglycerides, preventing us from burning fat during our workout. So nothing but water, and plenty of it, before, during and after exercise. The amount of fluids lost during physical activity must not be overlooked and we must make sure that our body is adequately hydrated at all times.
Another thing is fundamental: no fasting. Obviously, we shouldn’t overeat, but a light meal at least two hours before a training session is essential in order to feel good during physical exertion, because it gives the body fuel to burn during physical activity. Otherwise, the body would lack the nutrients it needs to sustain the workout and we will be famished at the next meal, with the risk of overeating, which would undo the work done.
The best solution is an easily digestible meal with a high energy density, such as foods containing cereals and their derivatives: pasta and bread, but also fruit and green leaf vegetables.
If you want to have a pre-workout snack, you could choose a fruit or low-fat yoghurt, or alternatively a protein-energy bar. As a matter of fact, we have studied bars that help reduce tiredness and stimulate normal energy metabolism, because they have a rich energy content and provide all the macronutrients (with a balanced 40-30-30 formulation) that your body needs.