Thursday, June 13, 2024

Top sport diet myths

A well-planned diet could enhance your sporting performance and even reduce the risk of injuries. With every influencer and their brand of wellbeing advice on social media it can be hard to tell facts from the myths!

Nutritionists, Vanessa Peat and Caroline Hind collaborated with Live Rugby tickets¹ (that supplied the data) to debunk misconceptions of sports diets.

Myth 1: Eating after dinner will make you gain weight.

For those of us who snack after 6pm, there is no need to feel guilty! There is no right or wrong time to eat but instead, it depends on your workout and sleep schedule. If you prefer going to the gym or your local grassroots football in the evenings, eat a light meal 1-2 hours before you go and have some post-workout snacks afterwards. Eating nutritious food with protein after a workout can help you replace glycogen stores and recover muscles to reduce the risk of overuse injuries. This is particularly important after muscle-building activities.

Myth 2: Carbs make you fat

Many people believe carbs are the cause of weight gain but that may be the biggest misconception about dieting. Carbs are essential for a sports diet as it not only reduces your risk of injuries but also plays a crucial role in terms of recovery. Research has shown that carbohydrates fuel your body and help with muscle growth by delivering energy, controlling blood glucose, and improving metabolic functions. This is even more vital during a sports injury when we are more vulnerable to lose muscles and in need of glucose and energy.

The recommended carbs during an injury are potatoes and whole grains such as bread and rice. But this does not mean that you should have a high-carb diet. Increase carbs around your sessions but emphasise protein-rich foods with plenty of colourful veg the majority of the time.

Myth 3: A vegan diet fails to support you

There are an increasing number of athletes who are adopting a vegan diet, from tennis legends such as the Williams sisters, to British racing driver Lewis Hamilton. A plant-based sports diet usually contains less fat and more fibre and carbs, which helps improve blood viscosity and increase aerobic capacity. This allows more oxygen to reach your muscle and improves endurance, enhancing athletic performance.

During an injury, a vegan diet provides plenty of proteins, without the inflammation effects of meat, which are supportive to muscle tissue rebuilding and recovery. There are lots of ways to get protein from a plant-based diet.

Tofu, soya, wheat and peas are all good protein sources for a vegan athlete diet. Anyone reducing their intake of animal sourced foods should consider how to compensate for these bone-building nutrients. Supplemental protein powders, collagen, mineral and vitamin formulas can help, especially if teamed with a low-sugar, whole-food diet.

Myth 4: Salts are bad for you

Just as athletes need more protein, salts play a significant role in a sports diet too. You need more sodium if you sweat regularly as it helps maintain body fluid balance and keeps you hydrated. Losses of sodium after sports could reduce your blood volume and the amount of oxygen it takes, which adds stress to your cardiovascular system, leading to fatigue and a higher risk of injuries. Drinking sports drinks with sodium prepares your heart and body for physical activities and helps your body rehydrate. Research has shown that by supplementing with sodium, performances for endurance runners were enhanced significantly.

Myth 5: All you need for recovery is protein

It comes down to the four R’s: Rehydrate, Refuel, Rest and Repair. A well formulated sport’s diet contains proteins rich food, a variety of vegetables and starchy food.


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