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Strategies to Address Performance, Recovery and “Event” Eating 

Strategies to Address Performance, Recovery and “Event” Eating 


One of the benefits of being a Certified Sports Nutrition Specialist is the ability to develop meaningful ways for a professional to make an impact on the success of an athlete’s experience. This comes with certain requirements. Each plan you develop should support or promote optimal performance by addressing various nutritional factors that can cause fatigue and deterioration in the outputs of performance (e.g., power, strength, agility, skill, and concentration) throughout or towards the end of the sporting event including the event (mode, intensity, duration of exercise), the environment, carryover effects from the previous exercise, appetite, and individual responses and preferences. Dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, glycogen depletion, hypoglycemia, gastrointestinal discomfort/upset, and disturbances to acid-base balance are all factors to sort out. 

Optimizing Performance Through Periodized Meal Planning 

We began this training by acknowledging several shifts in the study of nutrition coaching. We mentioned an emphasis on the special needs of athletes. We also learned how a lot of work is being done with the periodization of nutrition planning, to mirror the training calendar of our athletes. But if you think about periodization, it uses two key terms (macrocycle and microcycle) to define a global view (macro) as well as a detailed analysis (micro) of action. On a micro level, we already do a decent job of periodizing nutrition planning – by mapping out food intake guidelines for three distinct time points during the training day: pre-workout, during the workout or event, concluding with the post-exercise intake of our athlete. 

What follows is an explanation of the periodization we apply at the microcycle level. The seasonal goals or event dates for your athlete represent a macrocycle of training and planning. We’re simply aligning nutrition strategies with our athlete’s needs. 

Let’s break this down into some goals that we can identify, as to streamline the job details of the SNS each day. 

The first goal is to support and optimize performance. Consideration is given to pre-, during, and post-event intake values. This is accomplished by strategizing solutions to feeding challenges around exercise and training plans for our clients. This will usually require experimentation and the creation of new habits by the athlete. For the expertise needed in coaching nutrition awareness, the SNS is the obvious source. For the creativity needed to be successful, you are also the source of behavior change coaching and planning to help athletes address aspects of their food intake patterns. We will learn more about coaching later in this program. 

Overall, factors that affect performance must be identified and addressed including fatigue and performance output decrements with respect to power, strength agility, skill, and concentration levels. Post-training considerations include the need for a balanced electrolyte and glycogen state, as well as acid/base balance. 

Fluid intake recommendations and supplements are great strategies, to begin with, for an athlete facing changes, most clients do well with simply adding water to their day. But the timing of intake totals is also a factor influencing adaptations in your client. 

Additionally, we are hoping to achieve optimal gut comfort throughout the performance of the event for our athlete, while avoiding hunger or discomfort. We do what is necessary to avoid gastrointestinal upset during competition by knowing our clients, their sport, and how the human body responds to food intake and training regimens. We must ensure our athlete is comfortable while under stress or when pressed to extremes in performance. This is achieved by devising the timing of food intake that recognizes the need for gut comfort throughout an event, avoiding feelings of hunger or discomfort, and preventing gastrointestinal upset. 

For competitive events that span days or weeks, the SNS must continue to provide nutritional support. Our work with a client does not necessarily terminate with the season-ending.; We will be called to provide progressions of nutritional support for general health and training cycles, particularly in the case of competitive events that are held once or twice a year. 

Hydration Guidelines: Fluid and Electrolyte Balance 

Many times water is forgotten as a macronutrient. Yes, we also get micro-nutrients from water, but the amounts required for an athlete in training are highly specific, yet they are not as likely to be “periodized” in the same way as other macronutrients. Merely the recommended intake total being a percent of BW each day is ample enough to explain its label as a macronutrient. For the SNS, we simply want to have our clients know what their daily intake of water or fluids is. Usually, this is enough to get started. But as always, a Specialist is constantly analyzing client responses to your suggestions and the need to master fluid and electrolyte balance is an ongoing requirement. Too much water and our client risks hyponatremia; too little risks everything from poor physiological function to poor performance for the athlete. 

By now most of us know that optimal performance requires that proper hydration levels be maintained. Additionally, metabolic heat generated by muscle contractions during exercise can lead to decreased plasma/blood volume (hypovolemia) and thus, cardiovascular strain, increased glycogen utilization, and altered metabolic and CNS function. All of this can lead to a rise in body temperature. Thermal strain associated with hypohydration can contribute to an increased risk of heatstroke. 

To preserve homeostasis, optimal body function, performance, and perception of well-being, athletes should strive to undertake strategies of fluid management before, during, and after exercise that maintain ideal hydration. Depending on the athlete, the type of exercise, and the environment, there are situations when this goal is very important. 

Greater effects on exercise tolerance, decrease in cardiac output, sweat production, and skin and muscle blood flow become more apparent when a water deficit of 6-10% of BW is reached. 

Fluid intake – Pre-training 

It is all too common to see an athlete begin training or completion in a hypo- hydrated state, often due to recent, prolonged training sessions in the heat or having multiple events in a day. Athletes may achieve ideal hydration levels (euhydration) prior to exercise by consuming a fluid volume equivalent to 5–10 ml/kg BW (~2–4 ml/lb) in the 2 to 4 hours before exercise. 

Fluids, Electrolytes and Hydration During Training 

Sweat rates can vary during exercise from 0.3–2.4 L/h. This is dependent on exercise intensity, duration, fitness, heat acclimatization, altitude, and other environmental conditions (heat, humidity, etc.). Ideally, athletes should drink sufficient fluids during exercise to replace sweat losses. Sweat loss generally exceeds fluid intake in high-performance athletes. Routine measurement of pre-and post-exercise BW, accounting for urinary losses and drink volume, can help the athlete estimate sweat losses during sporting activities. 

Many uninformed athletes drink at rates that exceed their sweat losses and over-hydrate. This is also a dangerous practice, commonly leading to hyponatremia (sodium levels drop). This is more commonly seen in recreational athletes since their work output and sweat rates are lower than competitive athletes – yet they cling to a belief in the need to drink more water than is needed. 

Sodium should be ingested during exercise when large sweat sodium losses occur. This advice is an example of how science has redirected our understanding of taking salt pills after a practice in high-heat environments. 

Thirst sensation is often seen with shifts in plasma osmolality and can be a good indication of the need to drink. It does not mean that the athlete is dehydrated. However, maintaining fluid balance will help your athlete avoid muscle cramps, which occur with a high sweat sodium concentration. If not addressed, your client may be at greater risk for cramping or injury. 

Hydration and Fluid Replenishment After exercise 

Most athletes finish exercising with a fluid deficit and may need to restore euhydration during the recovery period. 16 to 20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost (1 to 11⁄2 water bottles per pound lost) is a good starting point. 

The timing of fluid and electrolyte intake should include the consumption of water and sodium at a modest rate. Over-consuming water/over-hydrating represent an extreme in strategies; stick with plants that minimize diuresis and what is lost as urine. To maintain homeostasis with hydration, your client should not restrict sodium in their post-exercise nutrition, particularly when large sodium losses have been incurred 

Getting Started

Sport nutrition requires combined knowledge in several topics – nutrition science, exercise physiology, and of course, the application of evidence-based research. High-level athletes and active individuals commonly search for health and fitness professionals with the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s) to provide direction for making optimal food and fluid choices to support and enhance their physical performance outcomes. An SNS with the KSA’s has therefore become a highly coveted presence in support of this mission. But we still need more. We also have to learn the skills required to support our clients from both a practical and real-world perspective, where people often do not eat perfectly or even well enough to support their performance goals. In the next Unit, we will explore this part of being an SNS more. 

The NESTA Sports Nutrition Specialist course is designed for personal fitness trainers, strength coaches and nutrition experts who want to learn cutting-edge techniques for increasing sports performance, reducing recovery time, and enhancing the overall well-being of your clients and athletes.

If you want to help clients with food, diet, weight management and improving the results of their fitness routines, the Fitness Nutrition Coach course is for you. You will learn about optimal nutrition, including proven techniques for increasing energy, optimal health and decreased dependence on medications. Instantly increase your job and career opportunities with this popular professional credential.

You can become a Certified Personal Fitness Chef and expand your current personal chef business, or add a new profit center for your fitness or wellness business. Many personal chefs cook and coach people in groups to help more people and earn more money per hour. Some chefs provide weekly meal prep service for health-minded customers and athletes.

Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. This is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.

NESTA coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.

That’s it for now.

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