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Sports Performance

Sports Nutrition Notes 

All of the energy that we need for life, as well as exercise, comes from the foods we eat and the fluids we drink. To perform at your body's peak level, sports nutrition experts recommend specific nutrients before and after a workout, along with plenty of fluids. 

Every category of nutrition is important for overall health, but according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, carbohydrates, proteins and fluids are the three key aspects of nutrition to focus on before, during and after strenuous activity.


Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for athletes. No matter the sport, whether you're just starting out or in training, carbohydrates provide the energy that fuels muscle contractions. Once they are consumed, carbohydrates break down into smaller sugars absorbed by the body and used as energy. Any glucose not needed right away gets stored in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen.

Glycogen is the source of energy most often used by the body during exercise. During longer periods of activity, fat can help fuel the body, but the process is slower and not ideal for efficient energy production.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, 1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories per gram of energy for the body. Athletes often talk about carbohydrate loading and carbohydrate depletion, which refers to the amount of carbohydrate energy that can be stored in our muscles as glycogen to be ready for our body's use. During exercise or activity, we use stored up carbohydrates in our muscles as fuel. 

If we don't replenish these stores, we can run out of fuel. Athletes often refer to this as "hitting the wall." How long our body's energy supply lasts depends on the length and intensity of the activity. To avoid running out of energy while working out or competing, start with full glycogen stores, replenish them during exercise and refill them after exercise to be ready for the next workout.

Simple carbs, or glucose, are absorbed by the body and converted to energy very quickly and provide a rapid source of energy. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and absorb into the body. This breakdown also requires more effort, so complex carbohydrates are converted to energy at a slower rate than simple carbs.


Protein consists of amino acids that combine to make muscles, bone, tendons, skin, hair, and other body tissues. Proteins also help our body transport nutrients and create enzymes, which trigger the multitude of biochemical reactions that occur daily in our bodies. More than 10,000 types of proteins in the body complete all of these critical functions.

Essential amino acids must be obtained from diet; therefore, it’s important to consume adequate amounts of high-quality protein. Athletes need protein to repair and rebuild muscle that gets broken down during exercise and to help with carbohydrate metabolism. Branched-chain amino acids — like leucine, isoleucine and valine — help support muscle repair.


Keeping your body hydrated is essential for everyone. Water is the most important nutrient and has many critical functions, including regulating temperature, lubricating joints and transporting nutrients as well as waste throughout the body.

Staying hydrated is especially important during exercise to ensure comfort, performance and good health. The longer and more intense the exercise, the more important it is to drink the right kind of fluids. Studies have found that athletes who lose as little as 2% of their body weight while sweating can experience a drop in blood volume, causing the heart to work harder to circulate blood. This can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue and heat-related illness.

Electrolytes regulate muscle function and nerve function, hydration, blood pressure, and the rebuilding of body tissue. Our electrolyte levels can fluctuate when the water levels in the body change which occurs when our level of hydration goes up or down. Imbalanced electrolyte levels can lead to either weak muscles, or muscles that contract too severely and cramp during periods of exercise.

According to the Institute of Medicine, the need for electrolyte replenishment during exercise depends on intensity, duration, weather and individual sweat-rate differences. Sodium and potassium are needed to help replace sweat-related electrolyte losses, and sodium also helps stimulate thirst. Other electrolytes, such as calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphorus help maintain the acid-base balance in the body and support muscle, nerve and cardiac function.


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