How big a role does nutrition play in sports performance?

Along with genetics and training, nutrition is an important contributor to optimal sports performance. Our bodies are like machines in some ways, put quality fuel into the engine and it will be primed for an excellent performance; however, if you put lesser-quality fuel into the engine, performance can suffer. Sometimes, we neglect nutrition because our genetics and/or training has carried us through despite a lackluster nutritional plan. Only at the highest levels of performance and competition will our weakness(es) in any of these departments be exposed. Therefore, to achieve optimal results, emphasize nutrition the same way you value talent and a properly designed training/practice plan.

Nutrition plays a very big role in sports performance.  When you eat is as important as what you eat.  Nutrition is your go juice.  No nutrition equals no go.  For optimal energy for your work outs, eat immediately after each work out.  This way you will be fueled up for your work out the next day and be able to efficiently utilize your time.  On performance days eat a good meal 2-3 hours before competition and keep high carb snacks on hand for inbetween sessions so that you can stay fueled up with out having it stay in your stomache during competition.  A competetor trains flexibility, strength, power, agility and speed and doesn't want that training to fade during competition due to lack of energy.  In addition, nutrition is what builds you up after your workouts.  A heavy work out (even the light days) stress joints, ligaments and even tear you up a bit.  When your muscles sustain these micro tears, protien is essential to build you up stonger.  Without protien for rebuilding, there is an increased chance of overtraining and overuse injuries.  So for maintenance purposes and for increased energy during competition how you choose to feul yourself is very important.

Personally, I feel that proper nutrition forms the foundation upon which sports performance is built. Without a good nutrition program, every aspect of your physical and mental abilities will decline. Everything from your level of hydration to the timing of your carbohydrate intake will drastically affect performance. The body simply cannot perform or function optimally without the building blocks of proper nutrition. Muscles cannot build, repair and become stronger without enough complete protein. The bodies ability to endure a grueling pace for hours on end is highly dependent on its glycogen stores.

Additionally, your ability to train and practice for a sport is dependent on your nutrition. If your nutrition program is filled with holes, you aren't going to be able to practice and train at the intensity and duration that is needed in order to become the best. Too many people neglect the importance of nutrition. Don't make this mistake because, to a certain extent, the outcome of your training and performance is hinged upon it. Nutrition is a variable of performance that you are in complete control of, so take advantage of it!

Heather R. Mangieri
Nutrition & Dietetics
Nutrition is a major contributor to an athlete’s overall sports performance. The main role of sports nutrition is to “support” the training program. So, eating for performance will change as the training regimen changes. Poor nutrition can lead to injury, fatigue and poor recovery, all three of which can hinder how well an athlete performs. A healthy diet and a performance diet are not that different from one another. Sports nutrition is more than carbohydrates to fuel activity and protein for mending muscles. All of the vitamins and minerals play a role in helping our bodies be the best they can be. Calcium and vitamin D for bone health, adequate iron to prevent fatigue and antioxidants to support the immune system are only a few roles nutrition plays. A board certified specialist in sports dietetics can help athletes build a performance diet tailored to their specific training regimen, age and gender requirements.
Doreen Rodo
Nutrition & Dietetics

Nutrition plays a very important role in sports performance. Without adequate carbohydrate and fluid, an athlete will get tired very easily and quickly. Protein is needed to rebuild muscles. Without all three of these plus adequate vitamins and minerals, an athlete will never be able to perform to their maximum potential. An athlete needs to pay close attention to when and what he is eating prior to a game or match as well as how much he is drinking. If unsure of how to use nutrition to reach his or her maximum potential, an athlete should contact a Registered Dietitian.

Yusuf Boyd, NASM Elite Trainer
Athletic Training
Nutrition plays a major role. If you have a poor diet, expect poor performance as a result. When thinking about sports performance you should place nutrition as high as strength, conditioning and practice because they all play an equal part in how well you will perform.
Molly Morgan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Sports nutrition plays a huge role in sports performance! Carbohydrates fuel high intensity (above 70% VO2 max) and limiting carbohydrates can negatively impact performance. Choosing high quality carbohydrates like whole grains, starchy vegetables and fruit is important because they will also provide the body with fiber, vitamins and minerals which promote overall health. Protein helps to build and maintain muscle mass although most athletes that I have worked with always get plenty (or too much) protein and neglect carbohydrates.
The role of nutrition in sports performance is very important. Proper nutrition must be available pre, during and post competition. You may have a great game or great workout, but if the proper nutrients are not consumed, your development will suffer. Think of your body as a high performance machine and that you must feed it right performance fuel.

Continue Learning about Sports & Athletic Performance

Fun Way to Get More Steps: Try Walking Football
Fun Way to Get More Steps: Try Walking Football
We knew Landon Donovan’s career was winding down when he wasn’t named to the last U.S. World Cup Soccer Team. After he retired in 2014 everyone assume...
Read More
How can I find a coach for my child?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
If you’re thinking about enrolling your child into a sport, typically, the coaches are provide...
More Answers
Calories Elite Athletes Burn During Summer Sports
Calories Elite Athletes Burn During Summer SportsCalories Elite Athletes Burn During Summer SportsCalories Elite Athletes Burn During Summer SportsCalories Elite Athletes Burn During Summer Sports
Learn how many calories top athletes might burn playing these summer games.
Start Slideshow
How Precise Can You Fine-Tune an Athlete?
How Precise Can You Fine-Tune an Athlete?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.