Controlling nutrition in the world of sport is of vital importance if we want to have good sports results and good performance and, what is more important, if we want to avoid injuries or health problems. We already saw in the article of the SSE (Syndrome of overtraining) as a deficiency in the energetic contribution can have disastrous consequences in the performance and the health of the sportsman.
Recently, one of the most striking cases was the Argentine footballer Leo Messi, who during a season was suffering from continuous vomiting during games and his performance fell considerably. The solution adopted by the FC Barcelona striker and the Argentine team was to put himself in the hands of a nutritionist expert, and the results from then on were unbeatable from the point of view of sports performance.
Despite being a collective sport, soccer forces players to a high physical effort , because during games are continuously starting, spirited, slowing, jumping, hitting the ball … and all this ends up causing a physical and energetic wear very high . For this reason, the detailed control of the players’ food seems to be fundamental for all teams, especially the top teams that are fighting for titles and do not want to suffer from downturns.
In the 70s and 80s it was common to see footballers who were overweight , with control problems, alcoholism problems … and their sports careers were quickly shortened. However, although today have come to light cases of football players smoking or with some other weight problem in the return of the holidays, the truth is that since the technical bodies of the same began to incorporate the figures of the nutritionists, this section is very controlled, and if not, tell the coach of Atletico de Madrid, Diego Pablo Simeone, and his physical trainer, Profe Ortega.
If we talk about energy expenditure during a game, footballers usually run on average between nine and twelve kilometers in each game. If we take into account that they are continuously making changes of rhythm during the 90 minutes that the games last, we are facing a session HIIT with a duration much higher than normal , so that the feeding before, during and after the matches seems like essential . And to this we must add that depending on the team, the players can play two or even three games per week, which undoubtedly raises the energy needs considerably.
Food before the game
The objective of controlling and supervising the feeding before the games is that the players arrive with the highest possible energy and avoid excesses, especially in the two days before the games (a meal out of the scheduled, with a mismatch of nutrients in terms of quality and quantity, can be disastrous for the footballer’s performance).
When we talk about the day of the game, the normal thing is that until two or three hours before the same footballers can consume solid food (always in a supervised and scheduled with the nutritionists of the team). As we have said, nowadays even the smallest aspect of nutrition is controlled so that it does not affect, but improve, sports performance during the competition .
Food during the match
During the competition (whether it is a football match, an athletics race, a cyclist stage …), the main objectives are usually to replace (as far as possible) energy reserves, delay fatigue or avoid dehydration and hypoglycemia . For this, it is usual to consume gels rich in fast-absorbing carbohydrates or isotonic drinks.
Once the game is over, nutrition will focus on filling as quickly as possible the glycogen stores depleted during the effort and facilitate muscle recovery . For this, some of the most commonly consumed foods are: nuts, bananas, oats, isotonic drinks, turkey, tuna, fresh cheese …
What benefits and problems does nutrition control for the athlete?
If we had to give a short and concise answer about the benefits that athletes have for the control of nutrition by a professional expert , the word chosen would be “everyone”. But let’s try to dig a little deeper.
- Decrease in the risk of injury : by controlling the energy intake and the quality of the food the athlete ingests, the risk that the athlete suffers some type of injury due to poor diet is substantially reduced.
- Better recovery and sports performance : knowing what to eat and when to do it, can make the difference between being first in a race and being second … or suffering a performance slump and ending up fighting for not finishing last.
- Maintaining an ideal weight: by controlling feeding, the athlete will have much easier to maintain their ideal weight throughout the competition , thus avoiding rises and falls in weight that end up affecting their performance and their chances of success. In addition, it will allow you to be more regular during the competition, which will give you more chances of obtaining a good resultthan an athlete who has continuous peaks of performance, for example, in tests of the hardness of the Tour de France or the Tour of Spain .
- Mental performance : almost as important as physical performance is the mental performance of an athlete, and good nutrition can help the athlete maintain a high mood during the competition and be more optimistic. Otherwise, if the athlete is not emotionally well, the results will hardly come. For this reason, knowing when to “reward” the athlete with a less strict meal is important.
- Depleted physical performance : an athlete who feeds on food of low nutritional quality will undoubtedly be impaired sports performance. Digestive problems such as acidity or heavy digestion can throw away all the work of a year at the final moment. Poor nutritional planning can lead to a drop in performance in the form of dehydration during competition, low glucose, fainting …
- Abuse of sports supplements : sometimes, when the food is not as good as it should be, you try to compensate by eating and using sports supplements (as if by magic a supplements were to erase everything that has been I’ve been doing badly). And the problem comes when some of these sports supplements can end up being positive in anti-doping controls.
“A bad meal is not going to be thrown by land all season, in the same way that a good meal will not fix bad planning”
- Increase of the injuries : the muscles need a correct nutritional contribution to stay in good condition, and in the case of professional athletes it becomes even more important. Therefore, neglecting food (and also neglecting including a poor choice of sources of macronutrients ) can lead to increased muscle injuries (cramps, contractures, breaks) and, consequently, lack of results.
How can we adapt all this to the amateur sport and our day to day?
We have just talked about the importance of nutritional planning in modern sport at the professional level, but can we apply it to our daily life? Without a doubt, yes. Not at the level and with the help as specialized and specific as that of athletes, but we can do it.
Although we do not practice any sports or have any health problems, going to a dietitian-nutritionist can mean an improvement in our quality of life : controlling our diet can help us to rest better, to feel more energized in our day to day life (let’s not forget that one of the characteristics of junk food is that it makes us more tired), being in a better mood and, of course, eating well will help us to prolong our life expectancy.