Nutrition: an essential ally of good sports practice
“A healthy mind in a healthy body”, a maxim known to all! To respect it, it is essential to adopt good nutrition and to practice a regular sports activity. We explain why!
-How does our diet play a key role in our physical and sporting performance?
During the realization of a physical and sports performance, our body needs a large amount of energy. This is provided by macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins). Foods are rich in macronutrients, but also micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). It is therefore essential to adopt a healthy and varied diet to provide all the building blocks necessary for the proper functioning of our body.
What is the best diet for good sports performance?
The best foods to consume for a sports performance must be selected to cover all the expenses related to the intense effort. Carbohydrates are important because they are an essential source of energy. However, other nutrients such as fats and proteins should not be neglected.
As far as carbohydrates are concerned, it is advisable to favor complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain cereals, wholemeal bread, or wholemeal pasta. For proteins, foods such as eggs, legumes, and poultry are interesting. As for lipids, you should make room for lipids rich in omega-3 such as fatty fish or nuts. Finally, don’t forget foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as good hydration.
How to eat to play sports in good conditions?
During the practice of a physical effort or sport, it is important to distinguish 3 phases: before the effort where the reserves are constituted, during the effort where the nutrients are used, and after the effort where the recovery operates.
During these three phases, the needs of the body are not the same. A healthy, varied, and balanced diet helps to optimize energy reserves.
During the effort, it is essential to ensure good hydration. If the session is long and/or of high intensity, it is necessary to provide the body with sufficient carbohydrates through cereal bars or dried fruit. After the effort, meals should be rich in carbohydrates and proteins by opting for bananas, rice, and ripe fruits for example.
What are the major nutrients for sports activities?
Water, the key molecule for adequate hydration
In the context of sports nutrition, an essential nutrient is a water. Water allows the maintenance of adequate hydration of the organism and is more important during the practice of physical and sports activity. For example, when we run 5 km, we lose between 0.5 and 0.7 liters of water. The work and the heat cause irreversible sweating that must be compensated for by consuming sufficient water, but also minerals and vitamins.
Vitamin B6, an essential vitamin for energy metabolism
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is essential to the general metabolism of the body. It is involved in the metabolism of amino acids, but also of lipids and glycogen, which is the form of energy storage in animals. Vitamin B6, therefore, plays a central role in energy metabolism.
Vitamin B6 also allows for the normal formation of red blood cells, which are responsible for transporting oxygen within our body.
Minerals, essential nutrients after a major sweating phase
Minerals are also particularly released with sweat, and it is important to restore their levels in the body after physical or sporting activity. It is therefore recommended to consume 3500 mg of potassium, 300 mg of magnesium, and 1000 mg of calcium daily.
What nutrients should be taken to enhance muscle recovery?
Antioxidants to protect the cells
In addition to the nutrients mentioned above, some may be particularly suitable for muscle recovery. Antioxidants are particularly important. In fact, during intensive physical and sporting activity, the body consumes a lot of oxygen, which increases oxidative stress, which is aggression for the components of the cells.
During physical activity, our body produces energy, but also free radicals which are at the origin of oxidative stress. Antioxidants help neutralize these harmful molecules in excess and thus facilitate muscle recovery. They can be, for example, vitamin C, vitamin E, or zinc.
Vitamin D for better muscle recovery
Studies have shown that vitamin D plays a role in muscle recovery after exercise. During the physical effort, muscle cells use phosphocreatine for energy production. After exercise, the phosphocreatine reserves must be regenerated. Researchers have shown that a good supply of vitamin D allows the phosphocreatine reserves to recover more quickly and therefore contributes to muscle recovery.
Magnesium for proper muscle function
As previously mentioned, our body needs magnesium for its functioning. This nutrient is important for the recovery of the muscles after a physical and sporting effort. Magnesium plays a role in energy metabolism: the entry of glucose molecules into the cells for energy production depends in part on the presence of magnesium. Magnesium is also involved in muscle contraction by interacting with the neuromuscular system. In general, all the nutrients, in the quantities recommended by the health authorities, allow good muscle recovery.
To feel good about yourself and your sneakers, it is important to adopt a balanced and healthy diet. This way, during a sport, the body will be able to benefit from all the nutritional and energy reserves it needs. The physical effort will be even more beneficial.
Key take-home messages
- Food provides the energy necessary for physical exercise
- Food is selected to cover all the expenses related to the intense effort
- Nutrition must be adapted according to the different phases of physical effort (constitution of reserves, use of nutrients, and recovery)
- Water is a key element of a good sports practice as well as vitamin B6 and minerals
- Vitamin D, antioxidants, and magnesium are essential nutrients for the muscles
Bielinski, Magnésium et activité physique, Revue médicale suisse, 2006
EFSA, Valeurs nutritionnelles de référence pour l’UE, 2019
OMS, Nutrition, https://www.who.int/topics/nutrition/fr/
Sinha et al., Improving the vitamin D status of vitamin D deficient adults is associated with improved mitochondrial oxidative function in skeletal muscle, 2013
Slotterback et al., No pain, no gain : perceptions of calorie expenditures of exercise and daily activities, 2006