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Sports Nutrition Series - Difference between Sports Nutrition & General Nutrition

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Nutrition is important for all as it helps to nourish and nurture our bodies and ensure good health. In order to sustain vital bodily functions, each person needs to consume a certain number of calories. How many calories is determined by the person’s unique physical makeup, nutritional and fitness goals and medical history, if any.

An active person will burn more calories than a sedentary person. Athletes are extremely active people and need their bodies to function at intense levels. Training, eating and sleeping are the 3 main pillars for any athlete. Striking a good balance between these pillars ensures good athletic performance.

In order to keep up with the demand for stamina to perform their sport, athletes need adequate fuel for their bodies on a day-to-day basis. They tend to have higher nutritional needs than non-athletes and people with a sedentary lifestyle. Sports Nutrition is different in this way from General Nutrition, which is made for holistic goals and lifestyle challenges that may not include intense training and competition phases.

Sports Nutrition is a specialization within the field of nutrition. It is the study and practice of nutrition and diet with regard to improving anyone's athletic performance. Taking into account the amount of energy the athlete is expending each day, it ensures a diet plan with appropriate nutritional foods and fluids to meet the athletes' energy requirements for training, competitions and also for recovery.

The requirements of pre-training and post-training nutrition depend on energy systems and fuel sources used during exercise. There is no one size fits all for sports nutrition. It will differ as per the individual goals for each type of training, whether a competitive sport or a non-competitive one. The Areas of Focus for Sports Nutrition are:

  • Competition guidelines

  • Use of quality foods to fuel well through the day

  • Proper hydration throughout the day and during activities

  • Differentiating the needs of endurance versus strength-focused athletes

  • Use of supplements wisely

  • Making smart choices when dining out &

  • Well-planned recovery meals

Athletes should work with a sports dietitian, preferably a registered one, to ensure they consume enough calories and nutrients to maintain their body weight, optimize performance and recovery, and plan a timing strategy that suits their body, sport, and schedule.

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