Top athletes have long known that nutrition is a big contributor to their best performances, because good nutrition is second only to a great training program in terms of preparation for competition. While it is true that physical training alone can prepare athletes to achieve great things, preparation can be far more effective when coupled with a regular program of good nutrition. This is why virtually all of the major professional sports teams employ a full-time nutritionist to advise and guide athletes on what they should be eating and drinking, and how much of each, to maintain optimum levels of fitness.
The Role of Nutrition in Providing Energy
Perhaps the easiest way to understand the critical role good nutrition has in supplying your body with energy is to glimpse body processes at the cellular level. The cells of your body require a full complement of vitamins, particularly the series of B-vitamins, as well as healthy fats like the Omega-3 fatty acids, a plentiful supply of proteins, and a substantial intake of antioxidants in order to carry out the complex functions of energy production and protection of the cells themselves.
All these nutrients are fairly easy to find and include in your diet, since they're readily available in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, and green tea. The real key to good nutrition is to maintain a proper balance of all these nutrients, and make them a regular part of a diet that also recognizes portion control. The nutrients which are responsible for fueling energy generation in the cells can be most effective in cells which also have the optimum nutrients for cell health and protection from any kind of damage.
Nutritional Contribution to Recovery and Fatigue Prevention
As recently as a few years ago, the best advice medical personnel could provide to an athlete during recovery was to drink lots of water, and maybe eat a banana or some other piece of fruit. With the hordes of research conducted in the past couple decades, this has been considerably refined and made much more precise, because it is now known exactly what the body requires to refresh itself after vigorous exercise.
A combination of fluids, electrolytes, carbohydrates, and proteins are now prescribed for the athlete wishing to recover as quickly as possible by re-hydrating, re-fueling, rebuilding and repairing the muscles of the body. Of course, that's only the general recommendation - specific advice must be given to individual athletes, based on the kind of exercise they undergo, their body type, and their age and gender. Even the environment can come into play, since temperature and humidity can impact recovery significantly, and things like altitude above sea level can also play a role in respiration.
Recovery and prevention of fatigue go hand-in-hand, since proper recovery will minimize recurring fatigue, and the golden rule of athletic recovery includes those three R's mentioned above - refuel, rebuild, and re-hydrate. Carbohydrates are one of the primary needs in refueling, because they are what gets burned in the action of intense exercise. Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen, so for athletes who are doing multiple workouts or back-to-back competitions, those are the nutrients which must be replaced as quickly as possible by more carbohydrates.
Sports Nutrition Supplements
The major difference between the food items containing nutrients needed by the body and sports nutritional supplements is that the supplements have been designed to include much more of the nutrition needed by athletes for their particular activity. Sports supplements contain all the same nutrients found in fruits, nuts, grains, eggs, beans, and meats - but in greater concentrations than they would be found in those naturally occurring foods.
Supplements are also formulated to help the body make best use of the energy-producing foods that are consumed by the athlete, so that he or she is able to perform at an optimum level. Regular use of sports nutrition supplements can help to keep an athlete in best health, and to assist with the consumption of nutrition supplied to the body. Many of the world's greatest athletes use sports nutritional supplements to ensure their bodies are receiving all the nutrition needed for maximum energy production, and maximum health. When the body is at its peak level of health and efficiency, the most stunning athletic achievements become possible.
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