Sports nutrition: eating for performance

It’s been a little over a week since i finished my course in sports nutrition and i thought that i would sit down and try to share some of the things i learned in that course.

The course was super interesting and also very beneficial to me and it will be useful for me in my future career! Also the teacher was really good, which makes a huge difference- If the teacher is not good at teaching (even if they may know their topic super well), it can demotivate me to go to the lectures as i feel like i can just read the information from course litterature and teach myself. So not only was the course interesting, it was also a teacher who could teach well!!

Our class has also asked if they could maybe make a part two of this course or a more advanced sports nutrition course where you also learn more on cell level and do different tests and such. Hopefully that will happen in the future, as i would love to learn more about this area of nutrition!!

Note that the course was about elite athletes and nutrition for performance. I.e how to optimize nutrition for performance and recovery, so the recommendations for an elite isn’t exactly the same as for a normal, average person who just works out a few times a week.

If you are someone who is triggered by numbers, or just doesn’t want so detailed about nutrition, then maybe this post isn’t for you. Also remember that if you are just working out as a hobby or to be healthy, then you don’t need to think so much about macros or eating optimally, instead just focus on eating from all the food groups and getting enough energy – that is the most important!! Also if you do want to gain muscle and strength, then increasing your protein intake a little (Nothing crazy) is recommended, maybe around 1.2-1.5g/kg body weight. (Note, most people who eat an omnivore diet actually eat that much protein already – as long as they are eating at a calorie balance)

Some of the most common questions when it comes to sports nutrition is… how much protein do you really need? Do you need supplements? What about protein and carb timing?

I thought i would try to answer those questions as best i can with the knowledge i have right now.

Let’s start off with protein and carb timing! This was one of the questions i wanted answered during the course, and here is the answer i got:

For best results, it is good to consume some protein 20-120 minutes after your workout for optimal protein synthesization. That doesn’t mean you need to drink a protein shake in the changing rooms right after your workout. Instead, just try to eat either a snack or main meal relatively close to your finished workout.

For carb timing… the most important thing is to eat enough carbs in total. Also, eat carbs 2-3 hours before your workout can insure that you have enough energy and filled up your glycogen stores to perform during your workout! If you are working out two times a day, then it is more important to think about your carb intake and to fuel up with plenty of carbs as well as protein after your first workout, so that you have enough fuel for your second workout.

For an average person, protein and carb intake isn’t a make or break thing, just focus on eating before and after your workout and eating at a calorie balance (or surplus if you want to gain muscle).

So how much protein/carbs/fat do you really need?

Protein 0,8-1,2g normal people. Protein 1,2-2g for elite (or if you are trying to lose fat while maintaing muscle). Ex, if you weigh 60kg then you would need around 48-72g protein per day for a normal intake. or around 72-120g protein per day. [The more you weigh, the more protein you need to consume].

(Note, the more you eat the more protein you also consume).

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Carbs, varies alot, but can be around 50-70% of your total calorie intake, or around 5-10g/kg per day, i.e if you weigh 60kg then you can eat around 300-500g carbs per day, depending on how much you train. I.e if you train two sessions per day, you would need the higher amount.

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Fat, well that should just be the remainder of your calorie requirement, after you have made sure to eat enough carbs and protein. But also, fat is important to get enough essential fatty acids and absorb the fat soluble vitamins in your food. It is also not recommended to eat less than 20E% (i.e less than 20% of your total calorie intake) of fat per day, because there is a risk that you won’t get enough essential fatty acids then. Also, fat is important for your hormones not to mention your brain and skin! Ex: If you have a calorie requirement of 2800kcal, you would need around 62g (minimum) – 124g fat (if you consume 20E%-40E% fat).

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How much fiber you need depends on how much your stomach can handle. Also eating alot of fiber too close to a workout may affect your workout negatively if you get stomach discomfort.

What about supplements?

As an athlete you don’t *need* supplements or extra vitamins. However, if you have a deficiency, then you may need supplements. Typically though, if you are an elite you will most likely eat alot more calories than the average person and therefore also consume alot more vitamins and minerals.

However, for female athletes they may need iron supplements as there can be an excess loss of iron if you workout alot. (Note, if you do lose your menstruation while working out alot, it is recommended that you try to eat more and/Or workout less until your menstruation comes back.)

For some, calcium and magnesium may also be required, but it is best to talk to a doctor and get blood tests done.

What about other supplements?

No, you don’t need protein supplements. BCAA alone won’t help you grow muscle or get stronger. Protein sources with all the essential amino acids – as well as a calorie balance or surplus is what is needed. It is better to eat “real” food than supplements. However, protein powder may be a good/cheap alternative if you maybe find it hard to eat after a workout or if you need an on the go snack. So ex. a protein shake and banana after your workout and then eat 1-2 hours when you have your appetite back or can eat a real meal.

Also for vegans, they may be at risk of not getting enough leucin in their diet (if they don’t eat alot of legumes, soya products or other protein sources with all the essential amino acids). So then EAA or BCAA can help compliment and increase the amount of amino acids in your meal. Though of course, eating actual food is recommended first.

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And with other supplements, the supplements that are proven to work are caffeine, creatin, beta-alanin and bicarbonate. I don’t plan to get into the scientifics or doses.

If you an endurance athlete, such as out running or cycling for several hours, then it can be beneficial to consume some energy gels or bars, or some sport drink when you are out exercising. This is because your stored glycogen runs out after around 2 hours, and if you don’t fuel up with glucose then you will most likely have to lower your intensity because your energy sources (i.e fat) can’t fuel the high intensity.

There is alot of hype around protein and working out, but the fact is many neglect the improtant of carbohydrates. Carbs are your main source of fuel and energy… if you want to perform whether it is strength or endurance, you need fuel so that you can perform, and that means eating enough carbs. Filling up your glycogen stores and if oyu are doing long workouts (i.e several hours) then actually eating something carb rich will help reenergize you.

Yes, protein is important but if you eat enough, then protein won’t be a problem. Of course, if you are also trying to lose weight while exercising alot and eating at a calorie deficiency, then you do need a higher protein intake… which in turn will affect how much carbs and fat you can eat, and you will most likely notice that you can’t perform at the same intensity as before because you are eating less calories and less carbs.

As i mentioned in the beginning… this information is mostly towards elite or those who workout alot or maybe just want to try to optimize their performance. Of course, there is still alot more information i could add such as water intake, salt intake, antioxidants, carb intake for different sports, carb loading etc but i thought i would just try to make this post simple and not give away all my information for free hahah.

I share this information because i love learning and want to share my information with others… but don’t forget that i am taking a loan for university and can’t give away all my information for free.

For normal people who just want to try to optimize their nutrition in regards to exercise…. try to eat several meals a day, drink enough water, don’t cut down on carbs. No you don’t need supplements. 

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If you like these types of nutrition posts i would love to know 🙂 And if you have any other nutrition related posts you want me to write about! (Though you can check out all my previous nutrition posts HERE and HERE)

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One Comment Add yours

  1. I loved this post!! I think learning about nutrition at that deep level is so interesting and fascinating. And also empowering because you can detect the lies others (and the media) say and offer true information.

    Like

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