What is Sports Nutrition? A Basic Introduction

what is sports nutrition - sports nutrition for teams

Despite a seemingly simple name, sports nutrition is an extensive and interdisciplinary science field. Doctors, dietitians, exercise physiologists, and even cellular and molecular biologists all work together to help athletes discover and achieve optimal performance. 

Main Categories

Broken down, sports nutrition is composed of three primary categories: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Specialists have studied how these three principal nutritional categories interact and help athletes obtain their goals. 


The building block of energy and one of the essential elements in a healthy diet, carbohydrates are at the top of the list. Simple or complex, carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for athletes and active adults. Good carbohydrates are key to athletic success from composing anywhere from 45-60% of total food intake. You can find carbohydrates in various sources, such as oats, whole grains, and potatoes. Finally, incorporating the correct ratio of carbohydrates in the diet is one of the main principles of proper nutrition.


All proper muscle growth and recovery starts with protein and both complete and incomplete proteins are vital in your diet. Luckily, they are found in a variety of sources. Maintaining a proper balance of nitrogen in the body is key for muscle tissue and can be achieved by intaking the essential amino acids found in protein. Based primarily on weight and activity, sports nutrition aims to determine the proper daily protein intake for an individual to ensure they can meet all of their needs.


Proper fat intake is critical for the athletic body. Fat falls into mainly two categories, saturated and unsaturated fats. Healthy fat can balance energy and hormones and restore muscle tissue,  protecting organs and cell membranes. Therefore, healthy fats should compose up to 30% of an athlete’s caloric intake. Nuts, avocados, and olive oil are just a few healthy fat sources recommended by sports nutritionists for active and competitive adults.

The Goal of Sports Nutrition

Obtaining the individual goals of athletes is the main purpose of sports nutrition. Tailored plans to meet active and competitive adults’ specific needs are where sports nutrition can be life-changing. Whether an athlete’s need is endurance, strength, or competition, sports nutrition studies how to achieve optimal nutrition via diet. The avoidance of unnecessary supplementation is one area that sports nutrition focuses on, helping athletes obtain their goals solely through nutritional eating.

Why You Need Sports Nutritionists and Dietitians

Sports nutrition is a wide field of study collectively catered towards athletes achieving their best self. Sports nutritionists and dietitians can help you accomplish your goals with the best research and strategies available. They can improve exercise results, accelerate injury recovery, and essentially change your life for the healthier and better. Sports nutritionists are often highly qualified in food science, counseling, and physiology. Therefore, they can also care for the athlete on many different levels.

Again, sports nutrition makes it possible for athletes to achieve their daily goals and their life mission. It is one of the most vital elements for athlete development. Each team has different goals and needs, and a sports nutritionist/dietitian has the knowledge to customize nutrition programs to fulfill these goals and meet these needs.

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