Nutrition for Sport

When planning Nutrition for Sports, there are many nutritional goals that sports and fitness people need to meet. So we need to consider the following:


Do we meet the nutrient needs writing service that arise from strenuous exercise? This includes high carbohydrate, moderate protein, low fat diet with sufficient fluids.


Do we promote long term health? We need to consider not only the sports person’s current health but also future health. This means keeping saturated fat intake low, and ensuring sufficient calcium intake.


Can we achieve and maintain appropriate body mass and body fat levels in order to perform to the best of our ability? Nutrition for Sports needs to be low in fat.


Does our nutrition for sports plan promote recovery from training? This is particularly important for athletes who would train once or twice daily, ensuring they have enough energy to get through the next training session.


Does our nutrition for sports training mimick what we would do in competition? It is vital that good nutritional habits are practised through both training and competition times. There is no point starting an excellent nutrition for sports plan only at competition times. This is important to ascertain the sports person’s tolerance – both psychologically and physically.

Athlete Nutrition, what fuels are best?


An athlete’s nutrition is a vital component to their training regime and needs to be planned and practised accordingly. We have already discussed that the basics of an athlete’s diet will consist of a high amount of carbohydrates, moderate amount of protein, low amounts of fat, and loads of fluid. But how much of each food, and why?


Over the next few weeks we will have a dedicated page on each of the fuels required for sports people. If you are wanting more general advice rather than sporting advice, be sure to read the pages on Nutrition Food Values.

Fluid Intake for Sports

Nutrition for Sports people is not the only aspect an athlete needs to consider. Fluid intake is also extremely important all day every day, particularly when exercising in order to avoid dehydration.


When it is hot, athletes lose more fluid due to increased sweating. This fluid needs to be replenished so as the body can continue to perspire. If the body is unable to perspire, then the cooling mechanism of the body become affected and the athlete may overheat and suffer from heatstroke.


In general, women tend to sweat less than men when exercising at the same intensity, due to their lower body weight. However, thermoregulation (body temperature control) tends to be equivalent in both men and women.


It can be difficult to replace all fluid lost whilst exercising, due to the amount of sweat, and it can be hard to consume fluid during some sports. Athletes need to pre-plan their fluid intake before, during and after their sport.


An athlete can sweat between 600ml to 1 Litre per hour. However, during the heat this can increase the sweat rate up to 2 Litres per hour. The rate at which fluids and nutrients are absorbed and emptied by the stomach (gastric emptying) is approximately 1 to 1.2 Litres per hour.



Athletes need to try and consume 80% of their fluid loss during exercise, although most would only manage less than 50%. Regular fluid intake prior to the event is crucial.

Pre-Event Hydration


It is absolutely vital

that sports people are well hydrated before they exercise, especially endurance events. Increased fluid intake should precede an event by about 24 hours. To be sufficiently hydrated, urine should be clear. Although there is far less risk of dehydration for short events, adequate fluid intake is still important.



Sports people who have dehydrated to “make weight” are at higher risk of starting competition dehydrated. In order to achieve a good rate of gastric emptying during competition, then 5ml fluid per kg of body weight needs to be consumed just prior to competition.


The stomach needs to be continuously refilled with fluid at a recommeded rate of 150 to 250ml every 15 minutes. By having consistently large amounts of fluid in the stomach, gastric emptying is aided. However, exercise at high intensity can reduce the rate of gastric emptying.


Any level of dehydration will decrease sports performance – a 1% loss of body weight generally decreases sports performance by 5%. Sports people can not be trained to tolerate dehydration.


 Thirst is NOT a good indicator of dehydration! If anyone is thirsty, they are already dehydrated. Regular fluid intake needs to become a habit for everybody. An athlete’s weight before and after training or competition indicates fluid loss. (1kg loss = 1 Litre fluid). Due to ongoing sweating and urination, athletes should replace 150% of their fluid loss.



Sports people involved in prolonged moderate to high intensity activities are most likely to suffer dehydration. Chronic dehydration can lead to fatigue. Plane travel or training in the heat is also very dehydrating.

Caffeine rich beverages (e.g. tea, coffee, cola, and alcohol) can increase dehydration. Tea and coffee should not exceed four drinks per day. Recommendations for alcohol intake are 1-2 standard drinks per day for women and 2-4 standard drinks per day for men, with 2 alcohol free days per week.

Effects of Dehydration


There are many adverse effects of dehydration including:

  • Body temperature and heart rate increases.
  • Perception of work/effort increases.
  • Aerobic capacity and muscular endurance are reduced.
  • Reduced concentration, skill learning ability and mental functioning.
  • Cramps, headaches and nausea.
  • Delayed gastric emptying, making it even harder to rehydrate (fluid intake when dehydrated can lead to stomach upsets).
  • Inability to urinate a few hours after an endurance event.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are thought to be very important component of nutrition for sports, and with good reasons! Carbohydrate and fluid ingestion have both been found to enhance sports performance, so together they have an even better effect. Sports drinks help to replace fluid, carbohydrate and small amounts of sodium simultaneously.


 Typically, sports drinks are 6-8% carbohydrate; stronger concentrations can decrease the rate of gastric emptying. Lower concentrations mean less carbohydrates are consumed. They contain small amounts of sodium (10-25mmol/L). A level of 60-80mmol/L would enable rapid rehydration (i.e. assists fluid absorption from the intestine) but sports drinks manufacturers won’t add this amount of sodium due to taste. The sodium also replaces some of the sodium lost in sweat. Athletes just need to be cautious of the sugar and artificial sweetners found in most sports drinks.

Most people find sports drinks more appealing than water due to their taste and colour. They are consumed in greater quantities than soft drinks because they are not fizzy, and therefore less filling. If athletes plan on consuming sports drinks, they need to practice their fluid intake regime during training.




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