Food is an easily accessible and enjoyable performance enhancing aid. You need to eat and drink, so why not do it in such a way that it will help your performance? The need for energy (calories) for most athletes is high, especially when the training load is high. The most important nutrient for exercising muscles is carbohydrates, however it remains difficult to persuade athletes that this is the case given the amount of information there is in the public and sports media. Even highly trained athletes will only have enough stores to last up to 70 minutes of medium intensity exercise.
The key issue for athletes is to develop easy to follow eating and drinking plans that will suit their own specific training requirements, meet requirements for all nutrients, take account of the individual needs of sports such as weight gain or loss, suit lifestyle and promote good health. For most athletes the key to success with athletes is finding a simple strategy that suits the way they live their lives and to encourage when possible changes that will benefit performance but also provide them with life skills so the incorporation of the message into practical sessions such as shopping and cooking allow athletes to see how easy the message is.
Most of the nutrition support work takes place within multidisciplinary teams at the Sport Ireland Institute. Whilst this poses some challenges, we work hard to develop fully integrated support to athletes such that nutritional interventions are precisely calibrated to meet the demands of the athlete, in particular partnership with our strength and conditioning team, doctors and physiologists.
The overall aim of sports nutrition is to help maximise an athlete's ability to train and perform to the best of their ability. Accredited sports dietitians are recognised as the most advanced dietitians within their field. They undertake the practical application of sports nutrition and how this applies to everyday food.
Dietary assessment and consultation involves some or all of the following:
- Assessing food and fluid patterns
- Determining the adequacy of the diet in terms of overall energy and specific nutrients
- Menus which fit a particular lifestyle
Advice will be monitored and adjusted as necessary to adapt to changing requirements. All advice given is sports specific advice tailored to individual needs. Sports dietitians can also advise on:
- How to lose / gain / make weight without compromising health or performance
- Pre-competition, post competition strategies
- Diet, fluid and travel
- Vitamin and mineral supplementation
- Off season advice
- Suitable recipes and cooking guidelines
All accredited sports dietitians are either members of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI), SENr or an international equivalent.