Nutrition in sports

What nutrition to give a competitive edge to the player

Since children are still growing and developing it is important to take a close look at nutrition. It will not be possible to work on a generic diet since it will be important to look at the accessibility of different proteins, carbs and fruit and veg in their specific areas.

The importance here will be to take a look at healthy principals and educating the children on good nutrition.

When evaluating a potential player, it’s possible that they might be malnourished or overweight. In both these cases, a different approach needs to be taken to get to the desired outcome. Please see guidance below on assisting players with weight gain and weight loss

Weight Gain

Create an Anabolic Environment:

Muscle tissue will grow far more effectively when you create the correct anabolic environment. This occurs by supplying the body with sufficient carbs, proteins and good fats.

Protein Intake should be set at a max of 2.4g per Kg of bodyweight

Protein is the only nutrient, which can be used to repair existing and build new muscle tissue. However, once intakes exceed 2.4g per Kg no additional muscle growth occurs.

Carbs for Energy

Low carbohydrate diets during the early development years of players will limit muscle growth. The focus should be on players eating less processed foods (high sugar/fat) and eating more wholesome, natural foods.

Carbohydrate intake is important during a bulking phase for the following reasons;

a) High carb intakes create an anabolic environment, by stimulating insulin release. Insulin is a highly anabolic hormone that promotes the uptake of glucose and amino acids into muscle cells.

b) Carbs are protein sparing. While on a low carb plan and training intensely there will be the conversion of amino acids into glucose (while this may be desirable during a fat loss phase, this scenario is not beneficial during periods where lean muscle growth is the priority). In essence, the protein you consume is being used for energy, not muscle growth.

c) Carbohydrates are required to refuel glycogen stores. Intense weights sessions will deplete glycogen stores, therefore to allow good energy levels and to allow progression over the training week carbs must be eaten in sufficient quantities daily to refuel.

Maintain Hydration

Muscle cells will function more efficiently when fully hydrated. For every 1g of carbs taken up into a muscle cell, 3g of water is also drawn in. In addition, being hydrated allows you to train harder and for longer thereby stimulating further muscle growth.

Nutrient Timing

All meals and snacks should contain the basic components — protein, fats, carbs.

Ideally, you should not go more than 3 hours without eating a meal or snack. This is the best way to provide your body with a constant source of protein for muscle growth and will maintain good energy levels and avoids the need to overeat at any one-meal time. When trying to gain lean muscle you may find it easier to have liquid snacks in-between meals until you get used to eating a larger quantity of food

Recovery Nutrition

Some athletes find it difficult to eat straight after a hard session, in this scenario a recovery shake will allow the athlete to supply his body with the nutrients it needs until he feels ready to eat. The main advantage of a recovery shake is quick digestion and absorption time. A glass of semi-skimmed milk and a banana works great as a recovery option, the milk provides protein and the combination provides good carbs. For those who are not gaining weight then blend 2 bananas into the milk and add a tablespoon of honey as well.

Fat Intake

Very low-fat diets can reduce testosterone levels which would make it difficult to add lean body mass. If we follow the basic principle of reducing processed foods and high sugar and high-fat snacks then we should not worry about the fat that is naturally occurring in wholesome foods such as eggs, whole milk, red meats, fish and nuts. The saturated fats within these foods are useful for testosterone production. Furthermore, these foods also contain the essential Omega 3 fatty acids which reduce LDL (the bad type of cholesterol).

Weight Loss


The general principle is to maintain a high protein intake (as is used during the mass phase) with a reduction in carbohydrates and fats. This will force the body to use its fat stores as an energy source more readily than if a player had full glycogen stores. Players may be able to increase lean muscle during this phase with correct training and by strict control of their eating

Firstly be honest and examine your current eating plan.

On a fat loss plan would be to remove any high fat/calorie foods and snacks, for example, crisps, chocolate, pies, pastries, fried foods. In truth, these should not be regular components of your diet plan.

• Players should avoid all soft drinks, fruit juices and energy drinks, the only exception would be the use of isotonic in games to delay fatigue and aid re-hydration.

• Meals should still be based on a 2–3-hour time slot, thereby providing good nitrogen retention for muscle repair, growth or maintenance.

• The frequent feedings will also maintain an active metabolism, which is more likely to result in body fat being liberated to be utilized as an energy source.

• The majority of daily Carbohydrate intake should be centred around pre and post-training; the remainder of the meals should be low carbohydrate, high protein with large servings of low carbohydrate salad and vegetables.

• Players should bulk meals out with low carbohydrate salad and vegetables. This will help maintain a feeling of satiety or fullness and will also provide a good source of fibre to prevent constipation.