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Sports Nutrition. Three Categories of Nutrients Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 23rd, 2021

Sports nutrition is an extremely complex subject particularly for sports persons who aspire to achieve the best athletic performance by looking for a balanced, healthy and at the same time, gratifying diet. In order to comprehend the role of nourishment for supreme performance in sports, it is essential to take a simplified view of the role of nutrients and their contribution to the body for the supply of energy in order to play sports efficiently.

Carbohydrate, fats and proteins are the crucial nutrients required by the human body to perform exercise which are transformed to energy in the form of adenosine tri-phosphate or ATP, the breakdown of which releases energy thereby allowing the contraction of the muscle cells. Every nutrient however is different from the rest in the distinctiveness of the properties it exhibits which actually determine how each nutrient gets converted to ATP.

It is a universally known and accepted fact that all the energy required for life and more specifically sports is attained from the food we eat and the liquids we drink. The food supplies our body with basic nutrients which in turn play their respective roles in providing energy. The nutrients are divided into three categories of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Carbohydrates are perhaps the vital resource of energy for sportspersons. Irrespective of what sport a person plays, carbohydrates supply the force that stimulates the contraction of muscle. When consumed, carbohydrates break into lesser sugars such as glucose, fructose and galactose which are then taken up by the body and subsequently used as energy. What is important to note is that the body will only utilize the quantity of glucose required by the body in that situation and the rest or the surplus will get stored in the body parts of muscles and the liver in the from of a substance known as glycogen.

Once the reserves are saturated with glycogen, the extra glucose is then stored as fat in the body for later use. It is this glycogen which is the basic source of energy crucial for sports and is required to aid the breakdown of fat into energy or power. The importance of carbohydrates in the activity of sports can be gauged from the fact that an adequate intake of the same prevents the proteins in the body from being broken down into energy which would be the case in the occurrence of little or no carbohydrates in the body.

The most sources of carbohydrates are fruits, vegetables, pastas, breads, cereals, rice, wheat pulses and sprouts which generally account for 60% to 70% of calories per day for an athlete. A male athlete is expected to take about 11-18 servings of bread, 8-10 servings of grains, cereals or pulses, 3and above servings of vegetables and 4-8 servings of fruits in order to gain a regular supply of energy for practice.

Fat, though infamous for the health problems they are known to cause to humans, are an essential source of energy and nutrition to sports persons. The stored fat also known as the adipose tissue is essential in padding the internal organs of the body thereby covering the nerves and aiding the movement of the essential vitamins A, D, E and K throughout the body, besides being the largest reserve of stored energy in the body for use in sports activities. Since one gram of fat gives nine calories, it is responsible for providing the maximum number of calories and energy among all the known nutrients making it the largest energy reserve in the body.

It is with the help of these calories that sports persons or athletes are efficiently able to perform intense workouts and exercise sessions of all kinds ranging from walking to running to cycling to swimming to sprinting to weight-lifting and many others. While it is essential to consume foods that are rich in fat, it is never advisable that a sports person consume rich fat foods before or immediately after an exercise session. Foods that have a high fat content are meats, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt peanut butter, cheese and other milk and meat products. Sources of unsaturated fats are vegetable products, such corn oil. It should be remembered by all athletes that fats should provide approximately about 20% to 30% of daily calories only.

Proteins as we all know are termed as the building blocks of the body and contain essential amino acids which help in forming the muscles, bones, tendons, skin, hair, and other vital tissues and organs whose health is of prime importance to athletes or even otherwise. Since proteins cannot be stored in the body, it becomes crucial to take a regular intake of proteins through the daily diet by consuming foods such as meat, fish, eggs, fruits and nuts.

In sports, proteins are a basic necessity primarily because of the functions they perform which include the building and repair of muscles and tissues that have been broken down while exercising, making it an essential criteria in foods for athletes. In the absence of a protein rich diet, there will be a reduced storage of carbohydrates in the body, in the form of glycogen. The average daily protein requirement for an athlete is 1.2-1.8 grams/ per kilogram of body weight.

Besides these, there is another very essential nutrient which is absolutely necessary in effective sports. Water is the most important factor in sports nutrition, accounting for approximately 60% of the body weight and is required for nearly all body processes to function well. Since the body cannot make or store water, it is imperative to replace the water eliminated as urine and sweat especially during a sports activity. Sports persons need to continuously replenish the lost water by either drinking water or any health drinks.


‘The Position Statement from the Dietitians of Canada, the American Dietetic Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine, Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research in the Winter of 2000’, 61(4):176-192.

Burke and Deakin’s, ‘Clinical Sports Nutrition’ (3rd Edition, McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd, 2006).

Sports Nutrition – ‘Protein Needs for Athletes’. Web.

Sports Nutrition. Web.

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