15 May
2018

All athletes know that training is important and that hard work, when done right, pays off with results. This hard work can be sabotaged by the foods that flow in your body. For every fitness goal, whether weight loss, weight gain or performance, 70% or more depends on the diet. For an athlete, it does not just depend on what food you eat, but also on the time you eat. It is such a good balance between repair and injury, illness and health, performance or outgassing and food can be the trigger. The first part that creates the basis for optimal nutrition is calorie intake. To get good performance and recovery, an athlete has to eat enough and right. To begin with, the easiest way to get an accurate estimate is to use a simple equation (taken from Sports Nutrition by Fink, Burgoon, and Mikesky). AF = activity factor of 1.5-2.4, depending on the estimated activity.

For men: calorie amount = ((15.30 body weight) .679)AF. For women: calorie consumption = )(14.70 body weight) +496)AF. After this basic calorie calculation is about trial and error. If the athlete is lethargic/tired or loses too much weight, calories need to be increased. If the athlete gains unwanted weight, the calories must be reduced. Do not increase or decrease by more than 150 calories at a time.

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The second part is the nutrient timing. Athletes have to eat every three to four hours a day. This could mean eating 6 or more small meals a day plus diet during exercise. It highly recommended having a bigger breakfast if it’s one to two hours before the first workout and something like a smoothie when it’s closer to exercise time. If the workout lasts more than an hour, consume 30g of carbohydrate per hour activity in the form of a drink or slightly digestible snack. It is important to choose things that do not cause the gastrointestinal upset but still get enough calories to deliver high-intensity performance. A meal or snack after exercise should be consumed within 20-30 minutes. This time is a window of opportunity for muscle recovery and repair and should contain both carbohydrates and protein. The pattern of calorie intake before exercise, during exercise for one hour, and after exercise should also be maintained for several sessions a day. This should also be done with competition. If a competition or tournament is a short fight, it is not necessary to consume carbohydrates, but if the competition takes longer or the athlete has to compete in several fights, he should consume calories with carbohydrates in the form of easily digestible foods and drinks.

An athlete also has to deal with the depletion of nutrients. Carbs are incredibly important to the kind of athletes who compete in MMA. The high intensity of exercise means that glycogen is often depleted. When these glycogen stores are not replenished, the body gets energy from the next easiest place, the muscle. Muscle breakdown is something that must be avoided for an athlete in a high-performance tournament at all costs.

I recommend 8 to 10 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day and it should contribute 55-65% of the total daily calories. Protein is also important for repairing and building muscle. Protein should be calculated as 1.4-2.0 g per kilogram of body weight and should account for 15-20% of total calories. Quality fats should make up the rest of the calorie intake.

Eating is an important part of an athlete’s workout plan, and it pays to spend time developing a plan that works and helps improve performance especially when joining tournaments. But eating is just one preparation, athletes need to prepare physically by working out too and of course prepare the equipment that they will use during the tournament. There are some awesome sports equipment for table tennis players out there on PPP.  Preparation is indeed a very important thing in sports.