How Does Diet Affect Sports Performance?

Your diet is one of the biggest factors in your sports performance. Not only does food provide you the energy you need in order to perform at your best, but it also helps enhance recovery, helps your body build muscle, and gives you a steady stream of energy throughout the game.

But how does food affect your sports performance directly? Are there some foods that are better than others? Does when you eat your food matter? Those are just some of the questions that we'll be answering for you below.

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How Does Food Affect Your Performance?

Food provides you with the essential energy and nutrients that you need in order to train or exercise efficiently. Your body creates energy from three main nutrients: Carbohydrates, fats, & protein. Carbs are your body's preferred energy source as your body can turn it into energy as soon as you ingest it, giving you immediate energy. Fats and protein on the other hand take much longer for your body to digest, opting to give you energy throughout the day rather than immediately.

Does When You Eat Your Food Matter?

The time you eat your food does matter and can play a major factor in how you feel during your training or exercise. If you eat too early before your exercise, you may feel sluggish and uncomfortable as your body hasn't digested the food yet.

It's important to eat your meal at least 1 hour before you exercise, but ideally 1¹/² hours to 2 hours. The closer that you eat your meal to the time you exercise, the lighter the meal should be. Foods like bananas, rice, bread, and yogurt are easy-to-digest foods that provide plenty of nutrition and energy.

Without food, your body will not be able to perform at its best as it will be using your stored fat as an energy source. Now while this sounds like a great way to burn fat, studies have shown that at the end of the day, there isn't any benefit in weight loss when training fasted.

Are Some Foods Better Than Others?

While there is no magic food that will suddenly make you perform better, there are foods that are better to eat than others. As stated above, it's important to eat a lot of carbohydrates, as those are your body's preferred energy source. This can be rice, oats, bread, potatoes, or beans.

Protein is also another important nutrition to eat before you exercise, as consuming protein increases the number of amino acids in your body. These amino acids help reduce the deterioration of your muscle, promote muscle protein synthesis, and stimulate muscle growth. Foods that are rich in protein include fish, chicken, and eggs.

Fats, specifically unsaturated fats, are healthy and important to include in your overall diet. However for meals before your exercise, it's better to focus more on carbohydrates and protein, as fats take the longest to digest, potentially weighing you down if you eat an excessive amount before your workout.

Does What You Eat After Exercising Matter?

Eating after your exercise or training is almost as important as the meal you eat before you exercise. Your body has used up a lot of energy during your training or exercise, so it's important to refuel your body to help recover that deficit. You should aim to eat your post-exercise meal within 2 hours after your exercise.

One of the most important yet easily forgotten thing to have after working out is water. During exercise, your body will sweat out a lot of water, making you dehydrated. It's important to drink a lot of water after working out (or during the workout) to help counteract this.Another important thing to eat after working out is protein. Consuming protein after your exercise helps build and repair the muscle tissue that was broken down during your exercise and also stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

Can You Eat During Your Exercise?

Yes! In fact, it's recommended to have some sort of small carbohydrate snack if you exercise for over 1 hour. This can be as simple as having a sports drink or even snacking on a small pack of your favourite candy. It's also important to drink fluids throughout your workout in order to avoid dehydration and reduce fatigue.

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