In the past 20 years, researchers have continuously shown that nutrition is essential not only to maintain good health, but when combined with a good training programme, it can also improve our fitness and sporting performance. Food provides us with the energy that we need for training, day to day activities and for the internal systems to function properly and survive. It helps our body build up its performance by improving speed, strength and endurance. It will also help us recover after a strenuous workout, as well as reduce the risks of illnesses, injuries and over-training.
The knowledge on nutrition has evolved greatly in the last couple of decades, as more scientists are experimenting and gaining vital information. With more knowledge available, many guidelines have been created such as those of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). These guidelines are continuously being updated as new research continues to be published.
Everyone has different goals and body compositions, making it practically impossible to create a one diet fits all. A person who wants to gain weight will have a complete different nutritional programme to that of a person who wants to lose weight. Some athletes may need up to 6000 calories a day just to be able to recover well from their intense training sessions. Eating the right foods, with the right amount, and at the right time is no easy task, especially if you are not a full-time athlete and you have to manage your diet plan and training among other daily commitments such as family and work. Many fall into the trap of just going with the flow. This however may cause long periods of time, especially late during the day, where the right food is not available. This is when most people rely most often on fast-foods or high-fat foods to fill their stomachs. A good nutrition plan will help you prepare before hand what you need to eat and drink during the day to meet your daily nutritional needs. Remember that training harder will not compensate for lack of good nutrition and vice versa. Both training and nutrition must be employed to achieve the desired goals.
Adaptations initiated by exercise can be amplified or reduced by good or lack of nutrition respectively. For example, lack of protein can hinder muscle growth and muscle recovery post-exercise (Jeukendrup, 2017).
Jeukendrup, A. (2017). Periodized Nutrition for Athletes. Sports Medicine, 47(S1), 51-63. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0694-2
Thanks for reading, and as always stay fit!