Sports nutrition is not restricted to the competition environment. Ensuring that an athlete consumes the right food and fluid before, during and after training will also help maximise their energy levels, provide them with the fuel that they require, and provide the essential nutrients for growth, development and performance on a day to day basis.
Sports nutrition is the principle of tailoring specific food and fluid requirements to an athlete in order to maximise physical performance.
It is not just the elite athlete who benefits from sports nutrition. The junior, age group and recreational athlete can improve their overall health and performance by adjusting both what they consume, and when they consume it.
Sports nutrition is a rapidly developing field with plenty of research produced every year.
While recommended guidelines are available, every athlete is an individual and these guidelines may need to be adjusted.
The day to day nutrition that an athlete consumes is referred to as a baseline diet.
There is little point in introducing specific sports nutrition strategies if the basic diet of an athlete is poor.
Sports nutrition strategies have the most benefit when they are teamed with a well balanced and designed baseline diet.
To ensure the adolescent athlete has a balanced baseline diet it is important to understand the concept of energy balance, the food components and how they contribute to the fuel supply, and the role of hydration.
Although all athletes have a requirement of energy (measured in kilojoules or calories) for their training and competition needs, adolescent athletes have an additional requirement for growth and development.
Adolescence is the period in which maturation occurs and the optimal amount of energy and nutrients must be provided to the adolescent athlete to ensure that their needs are met for growth, development and sporting performance. Without enough total energy, or a deficiency in any number of nutrients, the adolescent will not mature or develop to their maximum height or frame size.
Ensuring a balanced diet for the adolescent athlete can be difficult as adolescence is also a period where the individual is gaining more control over what they eat. Children can be very impressionable and may lack the detailed knowledge of nutrition, along with essential skills of cooking and choosing foods.