Wednesday, June 17, 2009



There's nothing like the subject of nutrition to stir debate. It seems like the experts change their minds almost daily about what we should and shouldn't eat. In truth, scientific nutrition hasn't changed much at all in the last fifteen years.
It's the constant and never-ending emergence of fad diets and weight loss programs that adds to the confusion. It appears everyone has differing opinions...
Fortunately, scientific sports nutrition is a little less contested. There are some very well-researched, well-practised dietary strategies that have been used by athletes for many years. They are applicable to most sports. In fact, they are more than applicable - they are a pre-requisite to peak performance.
The aim of this course is to outline the basics of sports nutrition with an emphasis on practical application. Split into 7 seperate articles, it covers macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate and protein), vitamins and minerals, pre and post competition eating and fluid replacement. There is also an article reviewing some of the most popular sports supplements available to today's athletes. In an industry that boasts some of the best marketing strategies around, the claims often fall short of the facts.
The final section provides a bullet point summary of recommendations that athletes can begin to use immediately.


All energy, whether it's to play sport or carry out any other activity, comes from three classes of food called macronutrients. These nutrients are better known as carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Each is important - not only to fuel athletic performance but also for overall health and well-being.
Weight for weight carbohydrates contain the least amount of energy out of the three macronutrients. Yet they are the most important type of fuel to an athlete.
During short, intense bouts of exercise (like sprinting), carbohydrate is the only fuel capable of supplying the body with energy quickly enough. In the first few minutes of any activity, it is carbohydrate that almost exclusively meets energy demands. In addition, the ability to repeat a sprint at the end of a game or race, to the same high level as at the start of the game relies, in part, on the body's carbohydrate stores.
Although the body does use fat for lower intensity activity, carbohydrate acts as a "primer" or catalyst for fat to be broken down. Finally, carbohydrates play a key role in central nervous system function. The brain for example, uses glucose almost exclusively as its fuel.
Can diet significantly affect the body's carbohydrate stores?
The average person has about 2000 calories of stored carbohydrate. An overnight fast (8 to 12hrs) and a low-carbohydrate diet can dramatically lower these stores. More importantly, a carbohydrate-rich diet can more than double them. The body's upper limit for carbohydrate storage equates to about 15 grams per kilogram (2.2lbs) of bodyweight. So an 80kg (175lb) person can potentially store up to 1200 grams of carbohydrate or 4800 calories worth of energy - all with just a few dietary modifications.
There are different types of carbohydrates. Understanding what they are and how they affect the body differently, is important to athletes and what they eat before and after a game.

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