CSCS Study Guide Chapter 10: Nutrition Strategies for Maximizing Performance

Chapter 10 of the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning pre, during and post competition nutrition needs for athletes. Paying special attention to these periods can make a large difference in the performance of not only aerobic endurance athletes but, in anaerobic athletes as well.

This chapter is about basic sport nutrition. The needs of athletes are different and reflect both health but, mainly sports performance goals. There is discussion of what to eat before, during and after training as well as a little information on eating disorder.

Nutrition Strategies for Maximizing Performance

  • What athletes eat and when they eat it can greatly affect performance.
  • Disordered Eating - mental health disorders revolving around food. Contains features of eating disorders but, these by themselves are not enough to warrant the professional diagnosis of an eating disorder.
  • Eating Disorders - multifaceted psychological diseases. Serious and can cause severe changes in a persons eating habits. Result in negative health outcomes.

Precompetition, During-Event, and Postcompetition Nutrition

  • Precompetition Meal - the meal(s) before sport competition. Fluid helps to ensure the athlete begins and remains hydrated. Carbohydrate helps to ensure there is enough energy available in the blood and muscles for activity. These foods should be familiar, low in fat and fiber and take timing, composition, sport and preference into account.
  • The research does not show that high or low glycemic carbohydrates have any distinct advantage over one another precompetition.
  • Carbohydrates in the precompetition meal may be the most important for aerobic endurance athletes that compete in the morning after an overnight fast.
  • Endurance athletes who are not adapted to a low carbohydrate diet and start exercise with depleted glycogen stores will break down muscle to use protein for fuel and suppress immune and central nervous system function.
  • Carbohydrate Loading - the practice of having large amounts of carbohydrates before the beginning of a competition. Helps to maximize the amount of stored glycogen present in the body. Typically carried out by endurance athletes.
  • Eating a large meal hours before competition may not be something that an Athlete is able to do when competing early morning. It is for this reason that athletes get used to eating smaller meals 1 or 2 hours beforehand while consuming carbs during competition.
  • Carbohydrate loading appears to be a somewhat effective strategy however athletes need to consume 8-10g/kg in order to notice any benefit.
  • During event nutrition is a really important factor for aerobic endurance events that last longer than 45 minutes, intermittent-activity sports and when an athlete will have multiple events in a single day.
  • Isocaloric - for the context of this chapter, it means the same or similar caloric balance.
  • Different types of carbohydrate have different digestion rates so it is wise to consume multiple types during exercise to optimize absorption.
  • Some athletes have issues absorbing fructose and need to test and monitor this to see if it upsets their stomach during exercise.
  • Strength and power sports also use a significant amount of glycogen and therefore require plenty of carbs as well. Having glycogen present in the body decrease the amount of detrimental muscle breakdown.
  • What athletes eat post competition helps replenish glycogen stores and affects the next performance. The sooner the next performance is, the more important this becomes.
  • Prolonged endurance activity breaks down muscle tissue so protein should be included in the post competition meal.

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Nutrition Strategies for Altering Body Composition

  • There may be some cases, typically with eating disorders, where an athlete needs to focus on adding fat and muscle but, for the most part we are concerned with adding muscle or losing fat.
  • The things that affect the number of calories athletes need in a day include; genetics, body weight, body composition, the training program, and age. Children and adolescents would need calories for growth, women who are pregnant of nursing also have different caloric needs.
  • Basal metabolic rate is the energy required to maintain normal body functions like breathing and blood circulation. It accounts for 65-70% of energy needs.
  • Resting metabolic rate, 10-20% higher than basal metabolic rate. Takes eating and physical activity completed earlier in the day into account.
  • 20-30% of daily energy requirements come from activity. This varies in athletes and sport type. May be significantly higher in athletes.
  • Diet-induced Thermogenesis - also known as the thermic effect of food. The energy that it takes to digest, absorb, metabolize and store food. Can account for 10-15% of daily energy burned in a day.
  • The off season is the time when athletes should focus on gaining weight since they do not have the pressure of competition on their minds.
  • Creatine monohydrate safely and effectively increases lean body weight.
  • There is no ideal diet that works for everyone. The most important factors in any diet are controlling calories, adherence and the ability to stick to the diet.
  • Obesity - being overweight within a certain range. Within a classification of 30-39.9 on the body mass index chart. Complex problem, categorized as a disease.
  • Initial weight loss goal for overweight and obese individuals should be 10% of initial weight within six months.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) - a means used to estimate body fat in an individual. May over estimate the amount of fat an athlete is carrying as this method only takes weight and height into account. Should not be used to diagnose, only an initial screening tool.
  • Binge-Eating Disorder - repeated episodes of uncontrolled overeating at least once a week for a period of three weeks. Episodes contain at least three of the following: eating faster than normal, eating until uncomfortably full, eating a large amount of food when not feeling physically hungry, eating alone out of embarrassment, and feeling disgusted or guilty afterward. Not followed by a purge.
  • Rapid weight loss does not have a definition but, it is generally known as losing weight faster than diet and exercise can facilitate in a short amount of time.
  • Voluntary Dehydration - attempting to lose weight by manipulating body water through a variety of techniques including; diuretics, sauna, water and salt manipulation wearing excessive clothing, excessive spitting, self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, and inappropriate or excessive use of thermogenic aids.

Feeding and Eating Disorders

  • Studies show higher incidence of eating disorders in athletes compared to controls.
  • Signs of disordered eating may include restrictive eating, fasting, skipping meals, and taking diet pills, laxatives and diuretics. Those with disordered eating may not fit all of the criteria required for being labeled as someone with an eating disorder.
  • Anorexia Nervosa - distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining weight that leads to excessive caloric restriction and weight loss. There is also typically a ritualistic way of eating performed like cutting food into small chunks and carefully portioning.
  • There are two major types of anorexia nervosa, those who binge and purge and those who are overly restrictive.
  • Bulimia Nervosa - eating large amounts of food like an entire pizza and then following this consumption with a purge. What makes this different from binge-eating is the addition of the purge and this occurs for at least once a week for a period of three months. There is a feeling of lack of control and those suffering from this are more likely to be of normal weight.
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is an eating or feeding disturbance that includes an apparent lack of interest in food, avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food, or concern about aversive consequences of eating.
  • Pica involves eating nonnutritive substances. This may mean that the person consumes things like ice or laundry starch. Typically accompanied by a nutrient deficiency.
  • Rumination disorder involves bringing back up and rechewing, swallowing or spitting food from the stomach.
  • Strength and conditioning professionals do not treat eating disorders but, they should be aware of them.

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Steven Mack is founder and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the private training studio, Simple Solutions Fitness. He consults for Stronger by Science, a leader in fitness research dissemination, and is a former Mizzou football walk-on. Steven dedicates his professional life to helping people through his writing, speaking, and role as a personal trainer.