Sports nutrition is a branch of nutritional science which focuses on the unique nutritional needs of athletes. People who want to achieve better athletic performance for casual sports and workouts often need to adjust their diets to meet their physical needs, and professional athletes often use the services of an experienced dietitian or nutritionist to make sure that their diets are designed appropriately. Numerous references on sports nutrition for specific sports can be found in print around the world.
Athletes burn a lot of energy, which means that they need to consume more energy than sedentary individuals. One of the best sources of energy is carbohydrates, making an increased carb intake critical for an athlete, and athletes also usually require slightly more protein. They also need the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables, and a well designed diet may also include some wiggle room for treats ranging from ice cream to slices of cake.
Another critical nutritional need for athletes is water consumption. Failure to drink enough water can result in an electrolyte imbalance, which can cause medical problems. Therefore, it is important for athletes to integrate water into their dietary plans, and to make sure that water is consumed in appropriate amounts at the right intervals, as too much water can also be damaging.
Different types of athletes have different nutritional needs, as do male and female athletes. Sprinters and marathon runners, for example, require different things from their bodies, and they also train differently for races, which means that their diets will be different. Sports nutrition considers the sport an athlete is involved in, and his or her physical condition. Different nutrition may also be involved for training, tapering down after a meet, or gearing up for a meet.
Many athletes also try to eat food which is healthy, in addition to nutritionally necessary. They may opt for a heavy concentration of fresh foods, for example, and try to avoid packaged foods if possible. Whole foods like unhusked grains, whole fruit, and so forth can be very popular with athletes, to ensure a rich balance of vitamins and minerals in the diet.
Sports clubs and gyms sometimes offer nutrition for sports workshops, which are an excellent resource for information on sports nutrition. Personal trainers can also provide tips and advice, whether people are trying to build muscle for bodybuilding, or trim down for rock climbing. Athletes at all levels can also work with nutrition professionals to tailor a diet regimen which will meet their needs, and to learn more about the complex science behind sports nutrition.