How to Treat Athletic Clients

Athletes have special nutritional needs, and holistic nutrition practitioners are often called upon to help athletic clients who are experiencing problems during play. Treatment is targeted toward improving performance and delaying fatigue. The optimum sports nutrition program will cover meal plans as well as supplementation.

Sports Nutrition for Optimum Performance

A healthy diet provides athletes with the energy they need to perform well by including enough calories, carbs, fluids, protein, vitamins and minerals. The ideal diet for athletic clients is based on the diet recommended for healthy active adults. Of course, each individual has different sports nutritional needs, and the amount of each food group recommended depends on the type of sport, the amount of training and the time spent exercising and staying actively engaged in the sport.

The Perfect Diet for Athletes

Athletes need enough carbohydrates to provide energy during activity, protein for muscle growth and for the repair of body tissue, and plenty of water and other fluids to keep the body temperature steady and maintain hydration. Athletic clients may need advice about meal plans designed to change their body weight for improved performance. Daily menus may be focused on fat loss or lean weight gain.

Eating for Performance

Each athlete is different, and recommendations about eating the right amount of food vary from person to person. Here are some special dietary considerations for athletes.

  • Complex carbohydrates are stored in the muscles and the liver and are found in foods such as whole grain breads and rice. Athletes generally eat carbs before and during exercise. Within 30 minutes after exercise, athletes eat carbs to rebuild their energy stores. This can be in the form of an energy drink or a granola bar. Athletes who train for more than 90 minutes may need more carbs a couple of hours later.
  • Protein is important, but many people eat more protein than they need for muscle development. Athletes who eat too much protein are at risk for dehydration and a loss of calcium. An excess of protein can but a burden on the kidneys, and lead to increased body fat.
  • Hydration is important for athletes, since the body can lose several liters of sweat in just an hour of exercise. To maintain hydration, athletes drink fluids with every meal, drink 16 ounces of water two hours before they work out, and sip small amounts of water while exercising. After the first hour, changing to an energy drink will replace lost electrolytes. It is important to note that some people do not experience thirst, although they still need water. This is especially true of children.

The Sports Nutrition course at the Edison Institute of Nutrition covers protein needs, fat loss, lean weight gain and competition nutrition. Students will learn how to treat female athletes, recommend supplementation and design daily menu plans.