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Whether you are a body builder, a professional athlete or simply exercising to improve your health, nutrition plays a key role in optimizing the beneficial effects of physical activity. Making better decisions with your nutrition and hydration can result in improved performance, recovery and injury prevention.

Eating a nutrient dense, balanced diet is important for everyone. But for those who are regularly participating in sports they need to be aware that their needs may be different and diet can have a huge effect on performance.

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel choice by working muscles, adequate intake is essential for preventing muscle fatigue and providing the body with an energy supply. Choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains, sweet potato, pulses and legumes to maintain steady energy levels and provide adequate fuel for hungry muscles.

Protein is essential for growth and repair, so vital to recover any tissue damage from injuries or hard training, as well as supporting new muscle growth. Sources of protein include fish, poultry, meat, eggs, pulses and legumes. Choose organic, grass fed and free range where possible. Another key macronutrient is fat. They provide fatty acids, which can be used as an energy source for the body, and also help make hormones and increase absorption of nutrients. Sources of healthy fats include oily fish, eggs, avocado, nuts and seeds.

The diet should be rich with fresh fruits and vegetable to provide antioxidants to fight free radical damage, caused by training and pollution. Aim to eat a rainbow every day, and include lots of fresh herbs and spices for extra phytonutrients and colour.

It’s crucial to stay hydrated when you are taking part in sports. Dehydration can not only affect performance, but can also be dangerous to your health. Special consideration to hydration should be given when training in warm or humid clients where sweating will increase water loss. Sports drinks that include electrolytes can be useful here, or just add sugar and salt to filtered water to make your own.

Taking time to rest and recover from hard training is almost as crucial as the training itself! Our bodies need time to recuperate after strenuous exercise, and allow the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and restore) to kick in, further aiding digestion and other valuable body systems. Some of the more common recovery techniques utilized by athletes include hydrotherapy, active recovery stretching, compression garments and massage. Research suggests that employing appropriate recovery methods can actually enhance performance.

A lot of attention has been give to appropriate meal timing around training. The general consensus is that eating a healthy, well balance meal 1-2 hours before exercise, and another within 1-2 hours after exercise will allow most people to meet their nutrition needs without anything else. Most healthy people who exercise regularly should not require additional nutrition strategies such as protein or creatine shakes that have become increasingly popular.