Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Art of Sports Nutrition

Sports nutrition is a well researched fine art, a complex science of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that often leads the majority plain confused. So are we the one's over complicating it?

Although new science emerges on a daily basis with regards to health and nutrition, this doesn't often simplify matters, yet often complicates the situation. Many that follow a program designed by a sports nutritionist will have a breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins to eat, at a certain time, from a certain source, containing a certain amount of calories all calculated against their energy expenditure on top of a list of supplements to take. Sounds like a lot right?

For the athlete this might be necessary in many cases, especially in weight class sports. But sports nutrition doesn't have to be this complicated. Of course we should be eating certain types of foods as some are more beneficial than others, and of course serve a purpose. But the emphasis on calories and its breakdown is often over emphasized and can cause a pattern of obsession.

What I suggest is a radically simple approach. An approach that I use with 95% of people. I use this for one reason only, I've noticed over the years that calorie counting for many people is a chore, complicated and time consuming. So I rarely use it.

Instead I urge anyone, whether your using a sports based nutrition program or not, to use your appetite, satiety, needs and meal timing to gauge what and how much should be eaten at a meal. This is the simplest way for someone to manage their diet. Tune in to what your body is saying and really you should be able to self-identify how much food you need to eat to maintain yourself at a steady weight (this also helps when you are eating the right foods, eating the wrong foods makes this more complicated). Once this is established you then know what you need to eat to lose or gain weight. Then simply make an effort to eat a bit more or a bit less.

Once this principal is nailed, alongside knowing your baseline macro-nutrient needs, then that is when key and effective principals of sports nutrition can really excel and be focused on. Such as strategies for carbohydrate cycling, supplementation during exercise, immune system boosting, re-feeding and the like. Such strategies are of course essential, but wasted if the basics are not already in place.

Again once specific protocols are in place that provide for your health, your training, and thus your recovery, only then can we pick our way in and around the science and fine tune some of the little things. Many read scientific journals and reviews and try to implement the odd nuggets of information straight away when really their basic principals and nutritional needs are still not being met. Like building a house without the foundations, it's just not done.

So a strategy for an effective sports nutrition plan:

1. Know the amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein your body needs

2. Know the amount of food you need to eat to maintain your weight

3. Identify proportions you need of carbohydrates in and around exercise

4. Crete a basic supplement regime

5. Fine tune an advanced supplement regime

6. Build in specific protocols for immune health, performance, super foods, and recovery

Ben Coomber consults with MMA, rowing, rugby and physique athletes at various levels. Consults for UK tennis and boxing, and owns and runs Body Type Nutrition. He is an Internationally Certified Sports Nutritionist.

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