Sunteți pe pagina 1din 9


The Effects of Proper Nutrition on Athletes

Manuela Lopez
Madonna University
ESL 4230- Informative Paper (D2)
November 16, 2015


The Effects of Proper Nutrition on Athletes

Athletes usually train in order to gain other benefits rather than just being healthy.
According to Maughan and Shirrefs (2011), the goal of training is to produce muscle with the
proper structure and function as a response to the training stimuli which induces the breakdown
of nonfunctional protein, and the synthesis of new functional one. This process is regulated by
the body`s metabolic and hormonal environment and by the intake of proper food substrates
before, during and after exercise; thus nutrition can positively impact athletes performances
(Maughan & Shirrefs, 2011). Proper nutrition plays an important role in enhancing body
composition, power and strength, therefore, proper nutrition has positive effects on athletic
performance and sports.
Athletic performance is enhanced by muscle adaptation. Athletes induce muscle
adaptation by the right combination of training exercises and nutrition. The major types of
exercise involved in athletes training programs are endurance and resistance. Endurance
exercises are those that, according to Arciero, Miller and Ward (2015), enhance the aerobic
system, stimulate energy consumption and require fluid, electrolyte and fuel supplementation. As
explained by Phillips (2012), the energy expenditures of endurance exercises stimulate the
oxidation of protein amino acid leucine. Endurance exercises also stimulate glycogen breakdown
and the uptake of glucose from blood to meet the fueling requirements of the body (Wildman,
Kerksick & Campbell, 2010). Resistance exercises are those anabolic exercises that enhance
strength, power, and stimulate protein synthesis increasing muscle mass (Tarnopolsky &
Timmons, 2007), consequently increasing the demand of dietary protein.
Carbohydrates such as glucose are essential macronutrients required in athletes diets.
Carbohydrates, as stated by Cummings and Stephen (2007), are substrate for energy metabolism
and play a role in satiety, blood glucose and insulin equilibrium, lipid metabolism, and calcium


absorption. During exercise, hypoglycemia and muscle glycogen breakdown were proven to be
independent processes involved in muscular or mental fatigue that reduces athletes
performances (Wildman, Kerksick & Campbell, 2010).
The individual metabolic state of an athlete, the diet, the type of exercise (endurance or
resistance), the intensity (intermittent or continuous activity) and duration of training influence
the use of carbohydrates by the body. According to Wildman, Kersksick and Campbell (2010),
carbohydrates can be obtained from internal sources such as muscle glycogen (300-500g), liver
glycogen (60-120 g) and blood glucose (4 to 6g/ 5,5 L) or external sources represented by the
carbohydrate content of diet. During exercise the stored glycogen is broken down into glucose
which is metabolized via glycolysis yielding pyruvate that can either enter mitochondria to
produce energy in aerobic metabolism (Krebs cycle), or be converted in lactic acid in an
anaerobic environment. The energy expenditure provoked by athletic activities require the intake
of some source of carbohydrate in order to avoid muscle glycogen depletion and hypoglycemia
with the consequent effect of fatigue (Wildman, Kerksick & Campbell, 2010).
Athletes can be categorized into levels of carbohydrate requirements depending on their
physical condition (muscle mass and body fat) and their training volume. According to Phillips
(2012), athletes with less volume of activity such as light training programs in which only low
intensity or skill based exercises are implied, would require 3 to 5g of carbohydrates per kg of
body weight a day. Endurance and team athletes like those athletes playing games such as
basketball or volleyball with intermittent high intensity activity patterns require 5 to 8 g/kg/day
and those practicing long distance endurance like cross country or marathons with more than 3
hours of constant activity require 8 to 10g/kg/day.
The timing of the carbohydrate intake has proven to be very important on the outcome of
athletes performances. Wildman, Kersick and Campbell (2011) indicated that a pre exercise


carbohydrate diet with a dose of 1 to 2g of carbohydrate per every kg of athletes body weight,
low in fat (to facilitate stomach emptying) and with optimal hydration from fluids 3 to 4 hours
prior the sport activity is recommended. The goal of carbohydrate intake during sport activity, as
explained by Wildman, Kersick and Campbell (2011), is to maintain the blood glucose level and
optimize its uptake and oxidation. This goal can be achieved by drinking 600 to 1200 ml of a
sport drink (8 percent of glucose) per hour, thus supplying the recommended 30 to 60g of
carbohydrate per hour. Wildman, Kersick and Campbell (2011) also stated that the goal of post
exercise recovery is to stimulate the restoration of muscle glycogen levels with the maximal
glycogen synthesis for which the intake of 1.2g per kg of body weight every 30 minutes over a 5hour period is recommended. Maximal glycogen levels are restored in 24 hours with the intake
of 8g of carbohydrate per kg of weight per day (Wildman, Kersick & Campbell, 2011).
According to Wildman, Kerksick and Campbell (2010), it is not recommended to delay the
intake of carbohydrates for two hours after the sport activity because it has a negative outcome
on the rate of glycogen recovery.
Athletes involved in team sports suffer intermittent patterns of activity intensity;
therefore, it is difficult to predict the exact demands of energy that team sports players would
experience during a game. The roll of a sport nutritionist is to prescribe a diet that would result in
the ideal body composition (body fat and muscle mass) of the team players and to make sure
they are correctly fueled and hydrated during the game. Table 1 describes some strategies to
achieve the goal of team sports nutrition.


Table 1
Fuel Requirements for Training and Match Play Adapted for Team Players.
Daily needs for fuel and


Carbohydrate targets per kg of the players` body



light training (low intensity or skilled- based


3-5 g per kg each day


Moderate exercise (i.e, 1-3 h per day)

5-7 g per kg each day


Endurance program (i,e., 1-3 h/day moderate to

6-10 g per kg each day
intensity exercise)
Extreme exercise (i,e.,>4-5 h/day moderate to high

Very high


10-12 g per kg each day

intensity excercise)
Special situation requiring
Maximal daily refuelling

Post event recovery or aggressive fuelling
(carbohydrate loading) before the game

Carbohydrate targets per kg of the players` body

7-12g per kg for each 24 hour

Speedy refuelling

Less than 8h recovery between two demanding


1-1.2g per kg immediately after first session repeat

each hour

Pre-game fuelling

Before the game.

1-4 g per kg eaten 1-4 h before exercise

Short games or small fuel demands

small amounts of carbohydrate including simple tasting

Moderate games demands (e.g. games 60-90 min)


Large games fuel demands (e.g. >2h for mobile


Perhaps up to 80-90g /hour

During games

Note that players with high body mass or undertaking a weight loss program may be better suited to reduce their fuel intake to the needs of the
previous category.

Nutrition in Team Sports by I. Mujika and L. M. Burke, 2011, Annals of Nutrition &
Metabolism, 57 (suppl 2), p. 30.
Protein is also an essential component of athletes diet. According to Phillips (2012),
proteins play an important role in energy metabolism. Proteins intake increases the ability of
athletes to replace damage protein and supports the formation of additional lean mass. The
ingestion of proteins promotes the formation of new and more resistant protein to the effects of
mechanical stress exerted by training in muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. Proteins also
play an important role in enhancing the operation of the immune system and other physiological
processes where they are involved. In exercise training, as indicated by Phillips (2012), the goal
of protein intake is to restore the loss of amino acid that had been oxidized during endurance and


to supply the primary resource needed for the subsequent increase of protein synthesis induce by
resistance exercise. Protein intake requirements vary according to the level and volume of
exercise practiced. According to Phillips (2012), protein requirements for endurance and
resistance exercise for average people participating in regular exercise activities are in the range
of 0.8 to 0.9g of protein for every kg of body weight per day. For athletes, requirements are
generally higher than sedentary people, about 1.2 to 1.7 g /kg/day is recommended (Phillips,
The timing of intake and the quality of the protein sources are very important to enhance
athletes performance. According to Phillips (2012), to achieve the goal of resistance exercise of
new muscle protein production immediate post exercise supplementation is crucial. Muscles are
sensitive to the supply of nutrients up to 3 hours after exercise. Phillip (2012) suggested that
athletes protein intake should be between a two-hour period immediately after exercise, during
the post exercise recovery phase, so the desired increase of strength body mass can be achieved
more efficiently. High quality of the protein source is equally important in achieving the desired
increase of protein muscle production. As mentioned by Phillips (2012), the best quality sources
of protein are dairy products, eggs and lean meat (p. 161). Phillip (2012) also indicated that a
dose of 20 to 25 grams of high quality protein could maximally stimulate muscle protein
synthesis since above this dose no further protein is synthesized and amino acid oxidation and
urea synthesis is stimulated. The 25 grams of high quality protein can be equally obtained from 4
eggs, 750ml of skim milk or 100g of cooked lean meat. Since protein synthesis increase and
decrease within 4 hours, athletes could consume a meal containing 25 grams of protein, four to
five times a day. To achieve the maximum muscle anabolic response, the minimum protein intake
a day should be in the range of 100 to 125 grams of high quality protein (Phillips, 2012).


Athletes may combine different amounts of carbohydrate and protein intake according to
their needs of achieving a desired body composition, delaying the outcome of fatigue when
practicing endurance exercise, increasing performance when practicing resistance exercise,
obtaining more power and strength. According to Phillips (2012), when the increased energy
intake to balance the energy expenditure of exercise comes from carbohydrates, less protein is
needed because of the ability of carbohydrate substrate to stimulate insulin release which can
strongly reduce proteolysis. However, athletes are not just concerned in energy balance nor
nitrogen balance, they seek the proper protein intake in order to obtain a better body composition
and more strength. In fact, lower carbohydrate and higher protein diets combined with endurance
exercise and some degree of resistance exercise are a very efficient method to fat loss and
preserve lean mass due to the anabolic effect of combining resistance and endurance training.
Phillip (2012) implies that higher protein hypo energetic diets are best for the training period
when athletes are seeking more strength and better body composition. They are not
recommended in the competing period because of the lower muscle glycogen store needed to
fuel muscular contractions that are essential for enhancing athletic performance (Phillips, 2012).
Fat is a macronutrient of less importance when talking about sport nutrition. According to
Rasmussen and Lee (2007), the common lipid component of a western diet consists of
triglycerides and cholesterol, which are sources of essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Phillips
(2012) suggests that fats should fuel 20 to 35 percent of the total caloric intake of a diet of the
general adult population. Athletes overall diet recommendations for fat, satured fat and
cholesterol intake do not differ to the general population, but diets that represent more than 40
percent of the daily energy requirements coming from fat do not enhance athletic performances
and can produce adverse health outcomes (Phillips, 2012).


Proper nutrition plays an important role in enhancing body composition, power and
strength, therefore, proper nutrition has positive effects on athletic performance and sports. In
terms of energy supply, carbohydrates are the most important source of energy required to meet
athletes physical demands; they are very important in preventing muscular glycogen depletion
and fatigue. Proteins conversely are more important to modulate the synthesis of specialized
muscular mass enhancing muscular strength and power. In order to be able to enhance athletic
performance a right combination of proteins and carbohydrates along with the right training
exercise program is recommended.


Arciero, P. J., Miller, V.J., & Ward, E. (2015). Performance enhancing diets and PRISE protocol
to optimize athletic performance. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 1-39. doi:
Cummings, J. H., & Stephen, A. M. (2007). Carbohydrate terminology and classification.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61, S5-18. doi:
Maughan, R. J., & Shirreffs, S.M. (2012). Nutrition for sports performance: Issues and
opportunities. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 71(1), 112-119. doi:
Mujika, I., & Burke, L. M. (2011). Nutrition in team sports. Annuals of Nutrition & Metabolism,
57, 26-35. doi:
Phillips, S. M. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. The
British Journal of Nutrition, 108, 158-167. doi:10.1017/S30007114512002516
Rasmussen, H. E., & Lee, J. Y. (2007). Total fats, satured fats and cholesterol. In J.A. Driskell
(Ed.), Sports nutrition fats and proteins (pp. 109-133).
Tarnopolsky, M. A, & Timmons, B. W. (2007). Protein: Quantity and Quality. In J.A. Driskell
(Ed.), Sports nutrition: fats and proteins (pp. 109-133).
Wildman, R., Kerksick, C., & Campbell, B. (2010). Carbohydrates, physical training and sport
performance. Strength and Conditional Journal, 32(1), 21-29.