A healthy balanced diet is vital for good health both from the perspective of an elite athlete and for those who enjoy working out to keep fit. Training can be optimised to help athletes and exercisers to reach their goals by making informed dietary choices. The key to making the diet healthy and balanced is to ensure it provides adequate energy from the consumption of a wide variety of commonly available foods, to meet the carbohydrate, protein and fat requirements for both health and exercise.
The food we eat provides the nutrients required by the body. However, no one food or food group can provide all the essential nutrients the body requires. Athletes and exercisers should eat a variety of foods to provide all the essential nutrients to support the preparation for, the participation in, and the recovery from sports and exercise. The body’s energy supply is derived from the nutrients in the diet. Nutrients are found in differing amounts in foods and are broken down in the body to provide a certain quantity of energy, commonly expressed as kilocalories (kcal) per gram (g). The main energy-yielding nutrients in the diet are as follows.
Dietary carbohydrate is provided by a wide variety of carbohydrate-rich food and drinks. However, all carbohydrates, both sugars and starches, are ultimately converted to and absorbed into the blood in the form of glucose, to provide the primary energy fuel.