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The macronutrients every sportsperson absolutely must have in their diet

This is where you get your energy from and they are found carbohydrates, protein and fat.

NUTRIENTS ARE NEEDED by the body to support metabolism, growth and all of the body’s functions.

Macronutrients are the energy (measured as calories) providing nutrients. As the term ‘macro’ indicates we need these nutrients in large amounts. The nutrients which provide energy are carbohydrates, protein and fat. All of these nutrients provide energy in different amounts:

1g carbohydrate provides 4 calories, 1g of protein provides 4 calories, and 1g of fat provides 9 calories. So it is easy to see how added fat can really impact on the amount of calories we consume in a day.

Why do you need carbohydrates?

shutterstock_95067928 Source: Shutterstock/Elena Schweitzer

We need carbohydrate not only as a source of energy but also as a source of fibre and nutrients such as B vitamins. Carbohydrate is broken down in the gut into glucose which is the body’s main source of energy.

Carbohydrate is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. It is used to fuel your exercise routine. During exercise, glycogen is broken down into glucose to supply the working muscles with energy.

The amount of glycogen in your muscles and liver has a direct effect on your exercise performance. If you do not eat enough carbohydrate rich foods you will not have enough glycogen stores causing you to feel tired earlier.

The amount of carbohydrate you need to eat per day will depend on the intensity, frequency and duration of activity you are doing. Too much carbohydrate in the diet however, will lead to weight gain. Seek advice from a dietitian who can help you to calculate the amount that is right for you (www.indi.ie).

Go for foods which provide fibre and will release their energy more slowly, helping you feel fuller for longer: porridge, grain breads, seeded breads, pasta, brown rice or basmati rice, beans (e.g. butter beans or kidney beans), lentils. Use fruit as snacks during and after workouts.

Milk is a great post exercise snack and can be taken as a drink with a portion of fruit or try a wholegrain cereal with milk.

Why do we need protein?

shutterstock_231165298 Source: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

Protein is needed for maintenance, growth and repair of tissue in the body. Protein needs are higher in individuals who are involved in strength and endurance training.

Most athletes can meet their protein needs through a balanced diet without the need for supplementation. Good sources of protein include lean meat, low fat yoghurt and milk, lentils and beans, fish, eggs and nuts.

Why do we need fat?

shutterstock_117744793 Source: Shutterstock/Sebastian Duda

Small amounts of essential fats are needed to produce hormones and keep the body healthy. However, as fats are high in calories they should be consumed in small amounts.

Avoid fried foods and foods high in saturated fats such as take-aways and processed meats. Choose low fat foods and healthy fats such as Olive oil or rapeseed oil; include oily fish in your diet as a source of essential omega-3 fats. Nuts and seeds also provide a range of healthy fats and should be included in your diet.

* This article was done with the kind help of Dr. Kevina Cardiff, a Dublin-based dietitian at purenutrition.ie. Dr. Cardiff specialises in diabetes, cardiovascular problems, obesity and weight a management.

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Brian Canty

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