Athletes' nutritional needs vary on a daily basis with training intensity and duration. Caloric intake, and carbohydrate, protein and fat consumption should be adjusted relative to activity levels. Athletes should always include a wide variety of foods in their diets and choose foods that have a high nutrient density.
Dehydration is the most common cause of fatigue and sub-par performance. The body requires a constant and abundant supply of water to regulate temperature, remove waste products and metabolize food for energy. Adequate hydration before, during and after exercise is essential.
Athletes should strive to keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable throughout the day. This promotes the effective use of food as fuel and provides a favorable environment for muscle growth. Timing food and fluid intake at specific intervals throughout the day, but especially prior to and during exercise, is essential for sustaining a high level of mental and physical performance.
Preparing the body nutritionally before exercise, and replenishing post-exercise is critical for short- and long-term success. Muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is significantly depleted during prolonged intense exercise and muscle tissue is broken down. Replenishing glycogen stores and favorable manipulating hormones is accomplished replenishing glycogen immediately after exercise is crucial. By effectively timing the intake of foods (carbohydrates & protein) and fluids athletes can favorably influence work capacity and recovery.
During intense exercise significant stress is placed on the body. An unavoidable consequence of exercise is the production of free radicals, which damage muscle cells, prolong recovery and contribute to muscle soreness. Catabolism, or the breakdown of muscle tissue, also occurs. Protein repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue, and antioxidant nutrients and omega 3's minimize free radical damage and inflammation.
Body composition testing provides specific information on changes occurring as a result of training. It is necessary for ensuring that athletes are within a healthy range for their gender and sport, and to assess whether appropriate training adaptations are occurring. Excess body fat may be a health and performance concern.