With Déborah Ohana, dietitian nutritionist
Do you want to get into sports? Very well ! But a sports activity is nothing if it is not accompanied by a good diet. This must indeed be in line with the effort provided as well as the needs of the body. Which diet to choose? We take stock of this question with Déborah Ohana, dietitian nutritionist.
Sports nutrition: advice that applies to everyone
Mass gain, weight loss… Whatever the desired objective, it is important for everyone, but a fortiori for athletes, to respect the basic rules of food. These are recommended by the High Authority of Health and remain essential to stay in good health:
– Eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day
– Take a real hearty breakfast, because it fulfills the energy needs of the morning, which is very important
– At each meal, you must eat foods rich in cereals (bread, pasta, rice, etc.), or potatoes, to benefit from a sufficient dose of carbohydrates
– During each meal, it is recommended to consume a dairy product (yogurt, cheese…). It is also necessary to have a dose of protein in the meal (meat, egg or substitute).
– Sugar and fat also have a role to play, but must be consumed in reasonable quantities because these nutrients can have harmful consequences in the long term
Nutrition and balanced diet: what to eat when you exercise?
When we play sports, our body is solicited differently, as Déborah Ohana, dietitian nutritionist explains: “The body in general spends calories. These calories are a unit of energy. Depending on the metabolism of each, the energy demand will be different and each person will have to eat different amounts. When we do sports, the body will demand additional energy because of the energy expended. Therefore, it is important for athletes to favor certain types of food. In particular, highlight complex carbohydrates, as well as proteins and antioxidants. In any case, regardless of the sports practice, it is important to have a healthy and balanced diet”.
In our food, distinguish carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. A real source of energy, carbohydrates are stored directly in the liver and in the muscles, in the form of glycogen. The ingestion of carbohydrates allows better sports performance. Carbohydrates are recommended during a sports activity, but we must favor the complex carbohydrates rather than fast carbs. Fast carbohydrates will dissolve quickly, and therefore have a very short benefit, unlike complex carbohydrates. All very sweet products like chocolate or honey are fast carbohydrates. Conversely, complex carbohydrates, for example whole grains, pasta or bread, will have a longer effect in the body.
Proteins are also very important in an athlete’s diet. Indeed, proteins help the energy present in the body to stabilize, and also help maintain muscle tissue. However, while protein is important, it can also be high in fat, the excess of which is not recommended for health and for sports exercise. It is therefore important to favor what is called lean proteins. These are low fat proteins. This type of protein is found in fish, poultry or low-fat yogurts and cottage cheeses.
The athlete’s diet must also include antioxidant foods. Sports practice promotes muscle stress and oxidation. Antioxidants are present in many foods. They are found in red fruits, citrus fruits or even garlic and onion.
If the heart of a good sports diet is indeed balance, it is important to manage the quantities well before and after exercise. As Déborah Ohana explains, it is important not to neglect snacks: “Before the sports session, it is recommended eat a small snack about an hour before training. The latter can consist of a cereal bar and a fruit or squeezed fruit juice. After the effort, and because of the energy requirement generated, it is important to eat a balanced diet including carbohydrates, which play an important role and allow better recovery. This snack must be consumed within 45 minutes of the sports session”. It is also possible to concoct a energy recovery drink when doing sports.
In any case, for optimal nutrition, it is advisable to vary the food during meals. We also think of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, etc.), rich in fiber. It is also recommended to consume omega 3, these essential fatty acids that help burn fat and strengthen muscle function. They are found in nuts, walnut and rapeseed oils, and certain green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, spinach, etc.).
Calculate your Daily Energy Need
In order to consume the right amount of food every day and to adapt it well according to your sports practice, it can be interesting to calculate your energy requirement. This will differ according to the intensity and the sport practiced. The Daily Energy Requirement (BEJ) is calculated by multiplying the basal metabolic rate at rest by the level of activity.
For metabolism, proceed as follows:
For men, we multiply his weight (in kilos) by 10, which we add with the height (in cm) multiplied by 6.25, which we then subtract by the age in years multiplied by 5. We add 5 to the result obtained.
Thus, for a 28-year-old man who is 1.80 meters tall and weighs 77 kg, we will obtain (77 X 10)+(180 X 6.25)-(28 X 5)+5, which gives us 1,760.
For the basal metabolism of women, it is the same calculation with the difference that we remove 161 instead of adding 5 at the end of the calculation.
Once you have your basal metabolic rate, you have to multiply it by the physical activity coefficient:
- The latter is 1.2 if sports expenditure is low (sedentary life)
- 1.375 if the sports activity takes place between 1 and 3 times a week
- 1.55 if physical activity takes place between 4 and 6 times a week
- Finally, the coefficient is 1.75 if the sports activity is daily
For example, if the metabolism calculated above is linked to a sports activity practiced 5 times a week, the calorie requirement per day necessary will be 1,760 X 1.55, or 2,728 Kcal.
By this calculation, you will obtain more precisely the daily energy requirement of your body.
What are the benefits of a sports diet?
Having a diet adapted to your sports practice is important, because it limits certain risks and promotes the effort of the practice. The sports diet will thus make it possible to avoid hypoglycemia, due to a lack of sugar in the body in particular. A good sports diet will also help to avoid muscle fatigue and the risk of tears and injuries. A good diet also helps to have a good energy functioning of the body, and will allow to increase the performance of the body as well as the recovery time.
Do not neglect hydration!
If we talk about food during sports, we must also take into account the hydrationnot ! Physical activities consume a lot of water. It is important to have good hydration when playing sports! We do not necessarily realize, but sports practice can quickly cause dehydration. It is therefore necessary to drink regularly when doing sports, even if you do not feel thirsty. It is recommended by health authorities to drink 1.5 liters of water a day. Be careful however, on the contrary, not to have too much hydration: indeed, overhydration (more than 9.5 liters / day can have serious consequences (coma, death…).
How do you eat while exercising? Foods to avoid
Whether or not you practice sport, certain foods and supplements should be avoided because of their harmful effects on the body. Thus, we avoid eating too fatty, too sweet or too salty. Similarly, we remain cautious with food supplements or proteins available over the counter, their effectiveness has not been proven. Excess protein can even, in rare cases, cause kidney damage. Of course, alcohol and tobacco are to be avoided.