- Athletes come in different shapes and sizes just like anybody else.
- Body shape is largely determined by genetics.
- Training also has a large impact on an athletes physique.
- Athletes who play a certain sports tend to have particular body characteristics. Athletes may also be drawn to a sport because it is most suited to their body shape and composition.
- Different sports have specific body composition requirements. For some sports, requirements are broad; for example, low body fat in endurance sports.
- For some athletes it is easy to maintain the optimal weight for their sport. Other athletes have to combine their training programme with the appropriate diet to achieve optimum body composition for their sport, whether gaining muscle mass to be stronger, making a set weight for the requirements of their sport, or maintaining a low body fat level for aesthetic reasons.
- A sound nutritional plan can help you identify and achieve your individual optimal body composition, while ensuring that you receive a balance of nutrients required for health, well-being and training.
Losing Body Fat
Some groups of athletes may benefit from weight loss for performance.
When losing body fat the most important requirements for an athlete are:
- You still need to meet your baseline nutritional requirements.
- Weight loss should be body fat, not muscle.
- You should consider planning your weight loss with the assistance of a dietician, coach and your family if appropriate.
- Ideally, weight loss should occur in the off season.
- Extreme diets and other weight loss measures will lead to a loss of muscle and fluid, not fat, and will ultimately impair performance.
- Set realistic goals for weight loss, including short-term targets and a long-term goal (maximum 1-2 kg per month).
- Use what you usually eat as a guide, reducing your intake of fat and carbohydrates with few nutrients such as sweets, soft drinks, chips, biscuits and cakes.
- Consume a high intake of unrefined carbohydrate foods such as breads, cereals, grains, vegetables, fruit, pulses.
- Ensure adequate protein intake.
- Distribute food evenly over the day depending on your training.
- Plan training sessions to take place before a main meal so the meal will provide adequate recovery food.
- Avoid high-sugar foods and alcohol; these foods provide energy but no other essential nutrients.
- Continue your fluid intake.
- Avoid missing meals.