If you've ever hit the wall in the middle of a long run, tried to pack on muscle, or downed coffee for an extra boost before a hard workout, you're well aware of the impact nutrition has on performance. But, as typically seen in our double-blind, placebo-controlled science world, the proof is only in the published papers. Let's all breathe a collective sigh of relief because the benefits of personalized nutrition on performance can finally be confirmed with the release of a new paper published in the March issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
The paper, titled "Nutrition and Athletic Performance," is the updated joint position stand of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Dietitians of Canada. It recognizes that a combination of both training and nutrition has the greatest impact on performance, and for the most benefit, athletes require an individualized approach. While there are some sports nutrition principles that hold true for the majority of athletes, the most effective way to gain an advantage is to match nutritional strategies to the individual athlete and sport.
The best way to go about this? Work closely with a nutritionist. An athlete's nutritional needs are not static - much like training, nutrition should be periodized and align with performance goals, especially as they change. A nutritionist can help you adjust your nutrition based not only on your sport, training, and position, but also on your dietary preferences, cooking experience, budget, response to various strategies, and so much more.
Contrary to common belief, sports nutrition is more than tracking "macros" and meal plans. At ViTL Nutrition, whether through the Nutrition Institute or one-on-one counseling, we work with athletes to adjust and match their nutrition to their performance goals and use nutrition as a tool to athletic success. Interested in a consult? Contact us or comment below.
We recognize that not all athletes have access to a nutritionist, which is why we are working diligently to further develop ViTL's Nutrition Institute. The Baseball Nutrition Institute has been received incredibly well by various teams, players, and organizations (and was honored with the Best of Show Award at one of the biggest baseball conventions in the nation), and we are busy working to expand the Institute into other sports. Our ultimate goal is to empower athletes with the knowledge and skills they need to individualize performance nutrition themselves and devour the competition!
NEW PERSPECTIVES IN SPORTS NUTRITION, from the "Nutrition and Athletic Performance" ACSM Position Stand
1. Nutrition goals and requirements are not static. Athletes undertake a periodized program in which preparation for peak performance in targeted events is achieved by integrating different types of workouts in the various cycles of the training calendar. Nutrition support also needs to be periodized, taking into account the needs of daily training sessions (which can range from minor in the case of “easy” workouts to substantial in the case of high quality sessions (eg, high intensity, strenuous, or highly skilled workouts) and overall nutritional goals.
2. Nutrition plans need to be personalized to the individual athlete to take into account the specificity and uniqueness of the event, performance goals, practical challenges, food preferences, and responses to various strategies.
3. A key goal of training is to adapt the body to develop metabolic efficiency and flexibility while competition nutrition strategies focus on providing adequate substrate stores to meet the fuel demands of the event and support cognitive function.
4. Energy availability, which considers energy intake in relation to the energy cost of exercise, sets an important foundation for health and the success of sports nutrition strategies.
5. The achievement of the body composition associated with optimal performance is now recognized as an important but challenging goal that needs to be individualized and periodized. Care should be taken to preserve health and long term performance by avoiding practices that create unacceptably low energy availability and psychological stress.
6. Training and nutrition have a strong interaction in acclimating the body to develop functional and metabolic adaptations. Although optimal performance is underpinned by the provision of pro-active nutrition support, training adaptations may be enhanced in the absence of such support.
7. Some nutrients (eg, energy, carbohydrate, and protein) should be expressed using guidelines per kg body mass to allow recommendations to be scaled to the large range in the body sizes of athletes. Sports nutrition guidelines should also consider the importance of the timing of nutrient intake and nutritional support over the day and in relation to sport rather than general daily targets.
8. Highly trained athletes walk a tightrope between training hard enough to achieve a maximal training stimulus and avoiding the illness and injury risk associated with an excessive training volume.
9. Competition nutrition should target specific strategies that reduce or delay factors that would otherwise cause fatigue in an event; these are specific to the event, the environment/scenario in which it is undertaken, and the individual athlete.
10. New performance nutrition options have emerged in the light of developing but robust evidence that brain sensing of the presence of carbohydrate, and potentially other nutritional components, in the oral cavity can enhance perceptions of well-being and increase self-chosen work rates. Such findings present opportunities for intake during shorter events, in which fluid or food intake was previously not considered to offer a metabolic advantage, by enhancing performance via a central effect.
11. A pragmatic approach to advice regarding the use of supplements and sports foods is needed in the face of the high prevalence of interest in, and use by, athletes and the evidence that some products can usefully contribute to a sports nutrition plan and/or directly enhance performance. Athletes should be assisted to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the use of such products and to recognize that they are of the greatest value when added to a well-chosen eating plan.