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Ask the expert: nutrition and sport

For those who practice sport at an amateur or competitive level, nourishment has taken on an increasingly important role over time, both as a factor capable of influencing athletic performance and in terms of maintaining an overall state of balance in the body.

Since the 1990s, the world of sport has undergone a real revolution with the application of scientific nutrition to training. This has not only guaranteed unthinkable improvements in the results of professional athletes, but it has also spread quickly with a positive impact on the activity of non-professional sportsmen.

Nourishment and sport: questions and answers

The rise of the Internet has also contributed to a widespread dissemination of information on the connection between sports and food, but it has also created many false myths. Therefore, we have asked nutritionist Giuliana Gargano to answer some questions, in order to clarify key aspects and address the practice of sport alongside a balanced diet properly.
With this first episode, we inaugurate the column Ask the expert where, with the help of qualified professionals such as nutritionists, sports coaches, mental coaches, athletic trainers and sports doctors, we will try to clarify your doubts and answer your curiosity about physical activity, nutrition and training.

Calories and training programmes

How should the calorie requirement be distributed for a standard weekly training programme, which includes three workout sessions and one match or competition?
The dietary indications vary according to the intensity and duration of the physical exercise, and the time of day in which we train. In general, for those who practice sport, be it a professional athlete or an amateur, the diet must be healthy, balanced and varied, intrinsically linked to the energy needs of the individual, which provides the body with the energy and the right amount of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). These are needed to perform the various activities, combat fatigue, improve the effectiveness of training and promote recovery.
The idea diet should include three main meals and two snacks, with a caloric distribution structured as follows: breakfast (15-20%); snack (5-10%); lunch (35-40%); snack (5-10%); dinner (25-30%). Finally, it is essential to have good body hydration. The sensation of thirst appears when dehydration is now underway, so it is important to prevent it, hydrating adequately before, during and after sports activity.

Nourishment and muscle mass: the healthy foods to eat

For the development and repair of worn muscles, you need quality proteins. Eat fish, poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and plant-derived proteins such as beans and soya. After exercise, the muscles need carbohydrates and a small amount of protein to facilitate repair and recovery.
In general, 2/3 of the protein intake needed to meet protein requirements come from food of animal origin and 1/3 from products of plant origin. We can divide the protein intake (average values) according to the intensity of physical activity: low intensity 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight; medium intensity 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight; high intensity 1.2 g per kilogram of body weight; intense competitive sport 1.8 g per kilogram of body weight.

How can we best balance meals during the day?

The ideal, from an organic point of view, is to have a pre-workout dinner, at least an hour and a half before sports. Should it be not possible, it is essential to increase the calorie content of the snack (10-15%). Moreover, to recover the supply of muscle glycogen consumed with physical activity, it is useful to eat fresh fruit, dried fruit, drinks prepared by mixing water with a 100% natural fruit juice, that is, with no added sugar. With this, you can start eating already in the first 30 minutes after training, and then continue with protein supplies within an hour after the end of physical activity.

It may seem paradoxical but eating little does not help to lose fat mass. On the contrary, the body activates a protective mechanism by storing spare fats.

It is therefore important to take the right amount of food, while also respecting quality. If, for whatever reason, you don't eat breakfast, or skip lunch or dinner, you'll still have to try to eat three times a day: don't worry about calories, but make sure to stick to the three daily meals rule.

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