The Importance of Nutrition in Sport
By Carleton Rivers, MS, RD, LD
Countless research studies show that proper nutrition is a necessity for enhancing athletic performance. However, very few studies take into account athletes with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. This poses a challenge for dietitians and practitioners who work with these athletes. A well-known figure in sports nutrition for athletes with impairments, Dr. Elizabeth Broad, gathered experts from around the world to collaborate on a book entitled Sports Nutrition for Paralympic Athletes. They discuss the most recent nutrition guidelines for athletes, as well as considerations and tips that will aid in the application of these recommendations for those athletes with a disability(1). This book will not only educate sports medicine teams and provide the competitive edge for their athletes, but it will hopefully encourage the expansion of future research in this area of athletic performance. This month’s Nutrition Spotlight will discuss the basic nutrient needs of endurance athletes, as well as highlight some considerations that need to be made for athletes with specific disabilities.
The term endurance is defined as “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions”(2). Endurance sports refer to those that require muscle endurance; this would be a cardiovascular exercise lasting for an extended period of time. To enhance performance in an endurance sport or activity, you must limit adverse conditions that can cause muscle impairments. This can be accomplished through increased physical training and adequate nutrient consumption.