If you take part in a sport regularly, perhaps you’re a member of a club or team, or a regular at your local gym then the best way to get the most out of your sport is to:
- Be the right weight for your height
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Eat enough carbohydrate to keep you going during exercise
- Eat plenty of wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables and moderate amounts
of milk, yoghurt and cheese, lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and pulses
- Eat enough food for your level of activity. If you eat too little then you won’t be able to keep
up your exercise levels
Good sources of energy
Carbohydrate is the most important fuel for energy, so you should eat lots of foods that are rich in starchy carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals and potatoes. ??
Carbohydrate is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. If you get tired during your sport, this might be because your glycogen stores are running low. The more you exercise, the more carbohydrate you need as this means there will be a bigger store of glycogen in your muscles. This is particularly important if you do an endurance sport, where you have to perform for long periods: marathon running. After exercise, your muscles can refuel their glycogen stores twice as fast as normal, so it's important to eat foods containing carbohydrate soon after you’ve finished exercising.
Protein and sport
We need protein for our muscles to grow and repair themselves. Protein is also a source of energy. Most people in the UK eat more protein than they need, so you should be getting enough protein to meet your needs.
Drinking for sport
If you get dehydrated it can stop you getting the most out of your activity, so it's important to make sure you drink enough. To help keep you hydrated:
- Don't wait until you feel thirsty
- Drink lots before you start exercising
- Keep some drink to hand so you can reach it whenever you need it while you're exercising
- Drink plenty when you've finished
Fluid should be on top of the usual 1.2 litres (6 to 8 glasses) we need every day. If you're exercising for longer than 1.5 hours, try to eat a high-energy snack such as a banana or some dried fruit before you start or during exercise. It's not usually necessary to drink sports drinks just because you're active as water is considered to be an adequate fluid suitable for most exercise. However, some sports drinks maybe useful if exercising at higher intensities for longer durations.
Sports drinks aim to provide three nutrients: carbohydrates to replace energy, water to replace fluid and electrolytes to replace mineral lost in sweat.