Sports and nutrition are indissolubly linked: a balanced basic diet improves performance, builds strength and endurance, and promotes recovery after physical exertion. This is something top sportsmen and women have known for some time. People who engage in sports for recreation are also increasingly asking for nutritional advice. At the Sports and Nutrition Conference, over 800 nutrition and sports specialists gathered at the Papendal conference centre to discuss the nutritional needs of recreational and professional athletes.
They considered which foods and nutrients were important and how the correct diet could affect a sporting performance. The main conclusion reached was that it was possible for anyone engaged in sports to take in enough nutrients through a balanced basic diet consisting of foods such as vegetables, fruit, grain-based products and dairy. This applied not just before and during physical exercise but afterwards as well. According to the speakers, carbohydrates and proteins, for example, played a role in the recovery of the body after physical exercise.
The role of the sports nutritionist
“A balanced basic diet is the chief requirement for anyone engaged in sports or physical exercise. Depending on the targets they have set themselves and their level of ability, athletes can require specific sports nutrition, possibly with the addition of supplements. The sports nutritionist will decide in consultation with the athlete what the best diet is under the circumstances,” sports nutritionist Esther van Etten explained.
Dr Lex Verdijk, a researcher and lecturer at Maastricht University, argued that the timing of nutrient intake was important for sportsmen and women. “Protein-rich products will have an optimum effect on muscle recovery if they are consumed within 30 minutes to an hour after physical exercise”. The body also recovers from training during the night. “Recent research has shown that eating protein-rich foods just before you go to bed helps the body build muscle mass and muscle strength.”
At the conference, leading gymnast and Olympic champion Epke Zonderland discussed the importance of a balanced diet for turning in a top performance. “Everything begins with a healthy basic diet consisting of a combination of enough vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fibre and proteins. The importance of basic foodstuffs is often underestimated. In the event of extreme physical exercise or endurance, an athlete can sometimes require extra supplements,” he said.
The (video) report of the Sports & Nutrition conference can be viewed from 2 December 2015 via the FrieslandCampina Institute website. Here you can also find more practical information about the conference and about dairy, nutrition and health.