Nutrition plays an essential role in the preparation for, participation in and recovery from sport and exercise. Most athletes train more than they compete and so it is important that they adopt nutritional strategies that support training and recovery and avoid dietary practices that might compromise their health.
The main fuel during heavy exercise is carbohydrate, which is stored in skeletal muscles and in the liver as glycogen. It is a limited store that when depleted leads to fatigue and so it is not surprising that dietary methods to rapidly replace the glycogen stores has been the focus of much research. Increasing the glycogen stores in the days leading up to endurance competition by consuming a high- carbohydrate diet improves endurance capacity by delaying the onset of fatigue. Even high-carbohydrate breakfasts will increase glycogen stores and improve endurance capacity during prolonged exercise. Ingesting a carbohydrate–electrolyte solution during prolonged exercise will contribute to carbohydrate metabolism and help delay severe dehydration. Athletes who avoid eating before exercise will benefit more from drinking a carbohydrate–electrolyte solution during exercise than from drinking water alone.
Successful recovery from exercise, especially training, is important because it allows the athlete to sustain a consistent training programme.