The Importance of Nutrition for High Performance

Nutrition is for the body like petrol is for a car. You can have the most expensive and luxurious car, but if you don’t fill the gas tank with the correct fuel, the car won’t be able to execute its primary duty. That is basically the premise on the importance of nutrition for high-performance athletes.

Unfortunately, nutrition and especially sports nutrition has become a hot potato topic and even the top scientists cannot agree on what fuel is best for the human body. With all the fad and crash diets available on the market, it’s sometimes better to break nutrition down into its most basic components and the importance of macro and micronutrients, so that each individual can decide for themselves which fuel is best for them in achieving their personal goals.

There is no denying the impact food has on health and performance. Eating high-quality foods is essential in nourishing the body and protecting it from inflammation and oxidative stress. Having an awareness and understanding of the different types of nutrients in foods, the effects they have on the body, and how to incorporate them into your diet, make it easier to live a balanced lifestyle.

The nutrients needed for growth, development and to regulate bodily processes, can be divided into two groups, marco, and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the nutrients your body needs in larger amounts, namely carbohydrates, protein, and fat, which provide your body with energy, or calories. Micronutrients are nutrients your body needs in smaller amounts, which consist of vitamins and minerals. Working together, both macro and micronutrients provide your body with what it needs to be healthy and to perform optimally. We need macronutrients to help with energy and we need micronutrients to help our body be healthy and digest those macronutrients.

Each person is unique and each one of us requires a certain amount of both macro and micronutrients daily to ensure we reach our personal goals. Therefore, each person should work out his/her daily calorie intake according to their BMR (basal metabolic rate), as well as their EER (energy efficiency ratio), and use the general dietary guidelines listed below to achieve their perosnal results.

General dietary guidelines for high-performance athletes are listed below:
• Eat at least 4-6 meals daily
• Plan a snack or a meal 1-2 hours before exercise
• Eat a higher carbohydrate meal soon after exercise (4:1 ratio carbohydrates to quality proteins)
• Have protein with every meal throughout the day
• Vegans or vegetarians must combine foods to complement proteins (optimizes amino acid ratio)
• Eat fruits or vegetables with every meal throughout the day
• Include high fibre foods with at least two meals daily
• Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates, increase your intake of whole food carbohydrates
• Limit white bread, cereals, and other processed foods
• Limit sugar consumption
• Limit alcohol consumption
• Eat a variety of foods from each food group daily
• Limit the intake of cured and smoked products
• Eat calcium rich foods
• Eat healthy fats and limit less healthy fats
• Include sources of omega-3 fats and consume mono-unsaturated fats
• Limit the consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and eliminate sources of trans-fats
• Eat according to your activity level, body type, and ultimate goals

KeNako Academy Strength and Conditioning Trainer
Henrico Louw