Good nutrition can enhance sports performance.

Although adequate and balanced diet do not guarantee athletic success, insufficient and unbalanced diet   are accepted  as reasons for  some health problems and  low performances.

Most of the time, athletes  prefer to use  various vitamins, protein and energy supplements while they ignore the importance of nutrition on performance although it is the easiest and most applicable way to improve thier performance. With all genetic, physical, and psychological factors which  play important roles in determining athletic abilities, poor eating habits and nutritional deficiencies can impair performance. Due to the heavy demands of exercise and physical activity, athletes need extra nutrition. There are three basic fuels the body relies on while exercising—carbohydrate, fat, and protein—and more calories from these fuels are required to sustain energy levels and maintain lean body mass.

In particular, a balanced diet that is high in carbohydrate, low in fat, and adequate in protein, is recommended  as diet for athletes. Due to its high carbohydrate and low fat content, a vegetarian diet is an optimal sports diet. It is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—important nutrients that help the body utilize energy and protect it from the stress of exercise.

There are some specific nutritional issues associated winter sports - with training and competing often occurring in the cold and at high altitude. Although there are physiological benefits of training at high altitude, athletes and coaches need to be aware of the potential effects on your nutritional status.

Exercising in the cold weather brings some unique challenges for athletes who participate in winter sports. Anyone who exercises in cold weather needs to take a few precautions in order to stay comfortable, safe, and still perform at an optimal level when temperatures drop.

But what you eat and drink before and cold-weather exercise can also help you perform better , stay comfortable and safe. Proper nutrition helps regulate your core temperature, keeps your body warm and provides enough fuel for your working muscles. In warm weather, it's easy to sweat to regulate your temperature and remove excess heat, but in cold weather you need to generate more heat to stay warm.

Chronic dehydration is a serious problem because fluid intake is often compromised due to lack of thirst, transient and urinary water loss at high  altitude, and lack of restroom facilities. Also athletes often restrict their fluid intake in order to avoid the hassle of having to remove excess clothing to use the bathroom, further compounding the issue of dehydration In the cold weather your body temperature normally drops. Your metabolism increases to warm and humidify the air you breathe and you tend to burn slightly more calories Breathing in cold-dry air forces your body to warm and humidify that air and with each exhalation, you lose significant amounts of water. Winter athletes need to consciously drink more fluids to replace the water that gets lost via respiration. In addition to this, the biggest nutritional needs during winter exercise is replacing lost fluids and getting proper hydration.

Training at high altitude accelerates the making of new red blood cells , however if an athlete has depleted iron stores to begin with, they may not be able to adapt as well to high altitude, leading to greater fatigue and inadequate recovery. So iron rich foods are an important part of athletes health.

When it comes to eating during cold weather exercise, warm foods are ideal, but not very practical. The problem with cold foods and fluids is that they can chill the body. In summer, this cooling effect is helpful during exercise, but in winter hot foods are the better choice.

Ideal foods are complex carbohydrates consumed 2 hours prior to exercise. Soups, chili pepper and chili food , bread, bagels, pasta with tomato sauce, baked potatoes, cereals, peanut butter, lean meat, and low-fat cheese are good choices.

It's also important to eat continually to replace carbohydrate stores that are being used for exercise and warming. If you don't replace this energy you will likely feel more fatigued and chilled. Energy bars, chocolate bars, trail mix, bananas, sandwiches or something that you like and will eat ideal foods.

And finally, it's important for winter athletes to have an emergency food source with them. This is beyond what you plan to eat. Hide an extra energy bar somewhere just in case.

Recommendations for Cold Weather Nutrition

·         Drink plenty of water

·         Eat a variety of high carbohydrates foods

·         Plan to eat a small snack every 30-45 minutes (100-200 calories)

·         Eat warm or hot food when possible

·         Improve food choices to increase amount of dietary iron.

·         Decrease caffeine consumption

·         Don't drink alcohol. Alcohol dilates the blood vessels and increases heat loss.


Nutrition&Diet Specialist  Merve TIĞLI