6 Sports Nutrition Myths and Mistakes
Achieving optimal performance in sports requires more than just physical training; nutrition plays a vital role in supporting an athlete's overall health and performance. However, the world of sports nutrition is often clouded with myths and misconceptions that can lead to unnecessary confusion and mistakes.
- The Perfect Formula Fallacy
One prevailing misconception is that there is a perfect, one-size-fits-all formula for sports nutrition. Many people believe they must strictly adhere to preconceived notions about what, when, and how much to eat. However, it is crucial to listen to your body's signals of hunger and thirst. At its core, sports nutrition can be simplified to a basic principle: eat when you're hungry, drink when you're thirsty. Trusting your intuition and responding to your body's needs is often more effective than rigidly following a prescribed formula.
- Lack of Preparation
When it comes to sports nutrition, being prepared is key. It is better to have more food and fluids readily available than to run out during physical activity. Adequate preparation ensures that you have the necessary sustenance to fuel your performance and avoid unnecessary setbacks.
Bring a mix of homemade snacks, bring Skratch snacks, and don't forget electrolytes!
- The Myth of Sports-Specific Food
Contrary to popular belief, consuming pre-packaged or specially designed "sports" foods is not a requirement for optimal nutrition. Regular food items such as rice or even a leftover slice of pizza can provide the necessary energy and nutrients for athletes. The focus should be on meeting the individual nutritional needs and finding things they will actually consume rather than relying on specific sports-branded products.
If you want to explore fueling with homemade food checkout the Feed Zone Cookbook Series.
- Disspell the idea that if you start drinking when you're thirsty it’s too late.
Trust Your Body's Mechanisms.
The notion that drinking only when you feel thirsty is too late is a common misconception. Our bodies possess a sophisticated mechanism of thirst regulation, driven by the need to maintain the right balance of water and sodium in our bloodstream. Thirst acts as a powerful survival instinct, responding to changes in our body's hydration status. Rather than trying to stay ahead of thirst, it is essential to trust this mechanism and drink when thirsty. Overhydration can dilute blood sodium levels, leading to potential harm. In cases of severe dehydration, prioritizing salt intake can stimulate thirst while maintaining proper sodium balance.
If you want to explore preloading, read more to understand the process and science better.
- Moderation Over Extremism
In the pursuit of optimal sports nutrition, it is essential to embrace moderation. Extremism and strict dietary restrictions can often do more harm than good. Balancing different food groups and maintaining a varied diet can provide the necessary nutrients for overall health and performance.
- Timing of Pre-Exercise Meals
Having a big meal about 30 to 90 min before exercise. After we eat a meal, it takes about 20 minutes before our blood sugar (aka blood glucose) begins to rise. As our blood sugar rises, our pancreas releases the hormone insulin which allows that blood glucose to enter our fat and muscle cells which lowers our blood sugar. During exercise, a contracting muscle can absorb glucose without the need for insulin. So if you eat a large meal about 30 to 90 min before exercise, it’s likely that you’re starting exercise while your insulin levels are high. The combination of a contracting muscle which can lower blood glucose along with insulin which also lowers blood glucose can cause one’s blood sugar to drop too low - something called hypoglycemia. This in turn can make one feel awful before our body is able to correct. With this in mind, it’s best to either eat about 2 to 3 hours before exercise or, if hungry and in a rush, have a small bite of something 10 min before exercise or at the start of exercise, since exercise will inhibit insulin release and since a contracting muscle can absorb glucose on its own.
Learn more about timing nutrition.
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