Nutrition Blog 2 - Why should athletes focus on food and water?
The energy from foods we eat fuels metabolism, the biochemical processes of building and breaking down cells, in the body. This energy is responsible for building and repairing bone, ligaments, cell membrane, muscle growth. This consumed energy stabilises chemical processes that occur in our organs, brain, hormones, reproductive, central nervous and digestive systems.
From an athletic stance, food is essential for muscle contraction, blood flow to these muscles, protection, and acuity.
Let’s consider our muscles. Our muscles use that fuel, particularly carbohydrates, to create ATP (cell energy), facilitating contractions. Protein encourages cell growth and repair, important in muscle adaptation when exposed to exercise related stress stimulus, ‘hypertrophy’. The correct fats increase HDL cholesterol and growth hormone responsible for muscle tissue development. All three major macronutrients are needed for optimal muscle performance.
When we consider our heart and cardiovascular system, foods can support the pulmonary system and the levels of oxygen supplied to the body, by managing the pressure of the blood that is circulated and the substances contained in this circulated plasma. Foods can either cause obstructions or optimise this system, and when managed well can enable a human being to not only live long and have a healthy life span but create the perfect setting for sporting excellence.
For athletes wanting to avoid injury, recover well when they do get injured or become ill, they need a healthy immune system that can fight inflammation caused by exercise induced stress demands and airborne infections in the environment. Quality meat and plant-based proteins, vegetables, and fruit with their many vitamins and minerals, provide this protection and recovery.
Athletes require many skills, at the very least clear heads, quick reflexes, and the ability to overcome fear and depleted motivation when the competition gets tough. A healthy diet overall and having a fuelling strategy prior, during and after competition is crucial to attaining these skills.
Water is an essential element of this fuelling strategy and one which often gets ignored, at the detriment of so many athletes. Water is crucial for all bodily processes and being dehydrated by as little as 2%, not only impairs these functions but can cause fatigue, dizziness, lack of concentration, headaches, irritability, confusion. Dehydration is an athlete’s toughest competitor. A good training plan should include a hydration assessment and the formulation of a tested hydration strategy.
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