Sports Medicine: We are what we eat: Sports nutrition

One of the important factors that can certainly make a difference between victory and failure is what athletes put into their bodies.

February 27, 2011 05:57
3 minute read.
Baked vegetables in oilve oil

Baked vegetables in oilve oil 311. (photo credit: Daniel Lila)


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This piece is the first of a sixpart series that will focus on sports nutrition, and will hopefully provide athletes with the necessary tools they need to achieve their goals.

The topics I will cover include: a) nutrition goals and eating strategies; b) proteins and carbohydrates; c) hydration; and finally d) the controversial issue surrounding supplement intake.

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Every athlete knows that in the heat of competition, even a split-second can make that difference between winning or losing, scoring a goal, making that save or preventing the other team from victory. Every moment counts, and therefore several factors can have a huge impact on player performance.

One of these important factors that can certainly make that difference between victory and failure is what athletes put into their bodies; in short, nutrition.

It isn’t a groundbreaking concept that what we eat and drink has a significant impact on our physical performance.

Diet influences how well an athlete is able to train for a competition and is one of the things that can transform a performance from good to great.

Once an athlete is already training hard to transform his or her body from minimal to maximal performance, it makes no sense to ignore diet, when this can also heavily impact performance.

Since there are several different types of athletic activities, it is difficult to prescribe a general diet that meets the needs of all athletes, due to the different demands required by these activities.

Some activities require greater speed, endurance, power, technique or strength and therefore no one diet can meet these different requirements at once.

Additionally, body size, physique, physiological and biochemical characteristics also differ between individuals.

These differences make it difficult to list specific guidelines for diet that will apply to people with such diverse physical makeups.

Healthy food choices make all the difference. There are several benefits that arise from making smart choices of what to put into one’s body.

The amount of food one needs to eat is something that is very much dependent on the energy needs of the athlete.

Calculating how much energy an athlete needs is dependent upon the activity performed during training and competition, as well as energy that is expended outside of these activities.

If an athlete trains regularly, he or she will need much more energy, especially when training sessions are lengthy and tough.

On the other hand, when an athlete trains irregularly or if an athlete’s training sessions are much less demanding, or shorter, significantly less energy will be needed.

Another important factor to take into consideration is that many athletes will have an onseason and an off-season, that is periods of time of more and less physical activity (also including periods of time where athletes may be recuperating from injuries).

As a result, energy demands fluctuate and one’s diet must be adjusted accordingly to meet these new demands.

Many people are under the impression that body weight is a good predictor of energy, however, this is not the case. Keeping track of body weight is a complicated process and often the information collected can be misconstrued.

Now that I have provided some basic background information to understand why nutrition, especially pertaining to sports performance, is not simple hocus-pocus, we are ready to delve more in depth into the issue in Part 2, which will appear later this week.

The above information is supplied by Yonatan Kaplan PT PhD (Candidate). Director, Jerusalem Sports Medicine Institute, Lerner Sports Center, Hebrew University. For further details, e-mail:, call Yonatan at 054-463-9463 or visit

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