While the sports nutrition category atrophied in early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s already showing signs of recovery and new opportunities for growth. For instance, a new generation of consumers is interested in health and fitness products that promote healthy eating, mental wellness, muscle building and optimal performance.
Carbohydrates receive the most attention for their role in sports nutrition, and are considered the primary energy source for exercise. They should make up 45-65% of an athlete’s total calories, with amounts varying based on the duration and intensity of the exercise or event. For example, a long distance runner would consume a higher amount of carbs than an Olympic weightlifter. Similarly, protein also plays an important role in sports nutrition, with research suggesting that protein intake should be individualized to support training and competition goals.
Athletes should eat a carbohydrate-rich meal 1 h to 2 h prior to exercise to allow for gastric emptying and prevent adverse gastrointestinal symptoms during exercise (2,6). In addition, high-fat meals should be avoided before a workout as they may delay gastric emptying and impair performance (2,6).
Hydration is another important aspect of sports nutrition and should be optimised according to environmental conditions, sweat rate and tolerance. Athletes should consume fluids throughout the day, as well as before, during and after an event. Fluids should be consumed in the form of water, sport drinks, juice or fortified plant-based beverages. Dietary fats should make up 20-35% of the calories in an athlete’s diet. Athletes should choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (like those found in olive oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil and salmon) and limit saturated and trans fatty acids (like those in butter, shortenings and fried foods).