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Nutrition

How does nutrition play a part in these 10 Olympic sports?

Olympic athletes are known to train rigorously but their nutrition does not receive the same spotlight. Here are a few dietary insights on these 10 Olympic sports.

fitness nutrition olympic sports
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Image Source: The New York Times

By

Suraj Iyer

Published: 18 Jun 2021 10:48 AM GMT

Diet and fitness have always remained synonymous. Several fitness enthusiasts swear by diets than exercise when it comes to meeting aesthetic and strength goals. It is not possible to out-train a bad diet, which is why calculating the right micronutrients and macronutrients is very important.

Why is Sports Nutrition important?

In a sportsperson's life, diet plays a major role. Athletes train rigorously for hours every day, with some working out twice a day. A healthy balanced diet tailored towards their activity can go a long way in performance and recovery.

Sports Nutrition is a branch of study that deals with nutrition for athletes. What an athlete's diet consists of, is extremely important as the right supplementation, diet, and recovery practices can help an athlete stay at their peak and avoid injuries. Here are a few dietary insights across various sports.

Athletics

Diet can vary for athletes in track and field. High-intensity athletes such as sprinters and throwers require a diet that is high in carbohydrates and protein. They primarily recruit type 2 muscle fibers which require a lot of energy. This can be supplemented through carbohydrates. Healthy fats also aid in a balanced diet. Protein is essential as it helps repair the type 2 muscle fibers and has essential amino acids that can help in recovery and strength. Most high-intensity track athletes are generally lean which helps them in speed and explosive strength.

Racquet Sports

Racquet sports are generally a test of endurance. They require speed, flexibility, stamina, and strength. Though tennis and badminton players may not have to strength train as a strength athlete, executing a fast-paced shot requires speed and power. Given the enduring nature of racquet sports, players include a lot of carbohydrates in their diet. Carbohydrates can help with high-intensity training and fats can be a healthy source for low-intensity workouts. Babolat states that badminton players may only require 0.3g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This can aid in proper recovery. Micronutrients can also aid in fulfilling vitamin and mineral quotient and help avoid injuries.

Boxing

WorldBoxingNews reported boxing to be the second most popular sport in the world today. Boxing is a fast-paced combat sport and is also taught as self-defense. Boxing combines strength and cardio which makes it a well-rounded sport. Boxers also need a high level of skill and coordination. A typical diet for them consists of fruits and vegetables to provide enough micronutrients which help prevent illnesses. Carbohydrates refuel the energy spent in training. Protein is of utmost importance as boxers require a lot of strength and speed. Hydration is a key aspect in all sports but plays a special role in boxing as boxers may often skip on proper hydration to maintain weight classes. However, boxers must avoid dehydration as it affects reaction time and cognitive performance.

Hockey

Hockey is an enduring sport that also requires bursts of high intensity. Carbohydrates are essential as they provide fuel. Lean protein sources can aid in building strength and muscle recovery. Healthy fats and micronutrients are equally important as they are part of a balanced diet. However, a complete diet may depend from player to player. Several characteristics such as body composition, training goals, athlete-specific needs have to be taken into consideration.

Gymnastics

Simone Biles made history in gymnastics when she performed the Yurchenko Double Pike. She has been regarded as one of the best gymnasts in the history of the sport and there has been increased interest in her diet and training routine. A healthy diet involves lean protein for muscle repair, high carbohydrates and fiber for energy, and low fat for most gymnasts. A gymnast may train for over three hours a day depending on their competition goals, so it is important to optimize diet. Ensuring the correct body composition can also aid in performing skills better.

Fencing

Katharine Holmes, an Olympic fencer for the USA told leonpaul.com on how an Olympic fencer eats. Her training pre-covid lasted for 7 to 8 hours a day which is where she started by calculating how many calories she required in a day. She then decided to consume 40% of her macronutrients as proteins, 35% as carbohydrates and 25% in the form of fat as her training goal was to build muscle. This may vary according to a fencer's body composition and training goal, so a proper diet may vary.

Shooting

Fitness and diet are not the immediate words that come to mind when one thinks of shooting. This sport requires more technical knowledge and skill to gain an edge over competitors. However, diet can play a very important role, as shooting is a sport requiring dedication, discipline, and patience just as much as any other sport. A balanced macronutrient diet with an emphasis on carbohydrates is considered ideal for a competitive shooter. Carbohydrates and proteins provide energy to the eyes, brain, and muscles for concentration and stamina. Just as in any other sport, it is advised to get the nutritional intake from whole foods.

Wrestling

Competitive wrestlers train for hours every day. Wrestling as an activity requires a lot of strength and endurance, indicating that it requires an equally efficient diet to supplement and refuel all the energy lost during training. Carbohydrates and protein play a part in building strength, repairing damaged muscle tissue, and providing the body with enough energy to sustain training. Fats are essential but are measured during intake as wrestling is a sport where weight makes a difference. Maintaining weight for a weight class means that nutrition along with training is of primary importance for a wrestler.

Olympic Weightlifting

Olympic Weightlifting consists of the snatch and the clean and jerk. These two moves are to be replicated on the Olympic stage using weights that may be double one's bodyweight. Olympic Weightlifting requires intense training and can be classified as an activity that greatly uses type 2 muscle fibers. Type 2 muscle fibers recruit every ounce of strength in the body and ensure that you can put in as much effort as possible without compromising on energy or strength. Protein and carbohydrates play a huge role here in strengthening, repairing, and refueling the body. Avoiding saturated and trans fats, and consuming healthy fats should be the norm for an Olympic weightlifter.

Swimming

Elite swimmers may train up to 10 hours a day involving sprints, swimming drills, and weight training among other forms of training. An article on swimmingworldmagazine.com cited research that high-intensity stated that a competitive swimmer may burn 5000 calories over four hours of training. Carbohydrates and hydration are very important as they can replace the energy lost during training. Protein sources can help in maintaining lean muscle and alleviate soreness. Sodium and micronutrients can help in warding off illnesses and maintain electrolyte balance in the body. However, this may vary according to age, gender, and goals of the swimmer.

Conclusion

One key takeaway from an athlete's diet for the common man is that whole foods and balanced nutrition are encouraged. Eating unprocessed food rich in micronutrients and macronutrients in combination with proper hydration can ensure a healthy life. Adopting a healthy diet or consulting a nutritionist can help with the overall quality of life.

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