Sprint Athlete Diet
As with any sports professional, sprint athletes have specific dietary requirements that help them to improve their training. First of all, an athlete needs to be consuming enough calories to support their rigorous training routine, therefore they will eat more than the average human.
On top of this, the different types of foods consumed is equally important for a sprint athlete. Primarily the anaerobic energy system is used when sprinting, as shorts bursts of power do not require oxygen for energy, especially if you are doing short distance sprints. As a result, a good amount of carbohydrates is essential for ensuring the athlete has enough energy to perform a good session.
Likewise, protein is just as, if not more important that carbohydrate in-take as sprint training uses fast-twitch muscle fibres. With this, micro-tears are created in the muscles that need to be repaired in-order to grow. This is done by a sufficient amount of rest and a good protein in-take.
We will take a look into the sprint athlete diet in terms of what and when they eat to improve training and recovery.
Sources of energy
Elite athletes train twice or more a day, and in-order to be able to push the body to its physical limits like this it needs to be fuelled properly. Carbohydrates and fats are the two sources for energy for the body, with carbohydrates being the more efficient fuel source. When broken down, it becomes glycogen which is used as fuel for the body in its everyday activities.
If an athlete isn’t consuming enough carbohydrates or fats and their energy systems are depleted, the body will turn to protein as a source of fuel. This is inefficient for an athlete that will need to use the protein they consume to repair and rebuild muscles.
That being said, as sprint athletes tend to participate in shorter training sessions with short bursts of energy used, in comparison to an endurance athlete, the carbohydrate to fat ratio isn’t as important. Endurance runners will often ‘carb load’ before a race as they need as many glycogen stores as possible to fuel them for a long distance, whereas sprinters only need enough to last them for a 100-400m run. Therefore, the emphasis on eating more carbohydrates to fats isn’t as important. Some examples of good carbohydrates to include in the diet are:
When protein is broken down in the body into amino acids, they are then used to perform various important tasks, one of them being to repair the muscles and help them grow. Amino acids are the building blocks of the muscles, hence why it is so important that athletes consume enough protein.
You’ve probably noticed that professional sprinters carry a lot more muscle than marathon runners, and that’s all to do with the muscles fibres used. With a sprint race, the body does not have the time to draw its energy through oxygen (aerobic) so the muscles must store the energy they need.
ATP is known as the body’s energy currency and is created through the food you eat. However, a sprinter’s body does not have the time to break glucose down and use the ATP, therefore it must already have it stored in the muscles ready for the short burst of energy they need. Examples of healthy protein sources include:
Meal timing is key
Another important aspect of a sprint athlete’s diet is the timing of their meals:
Before a training session you will need to fuel the body in preparation, and so you will need to ensure you have enough carbohydrates in the body. Although fat can be used as a source of energy, is it often heavier and slower to digest which isn’t great before training. Likewise, you will also want a small amount of protein, this means snacks such as a piece of fruit with a protein shake or rice cakes are a good source of fuel without leaving you feeling too full.
After a training session, again a sufficient amount of carbohydrates is needed to restore the body’s glycogen levels. Additionally, now the muscles have been damaged through training, they need to be repaired with protein. It is usually recommended that you consume protein within 1-2 hours of training
The night before a race, you will not need to ‘carb load’ like an endurance athlete, however there are still some things that you should consider. It is wise for a sprint athlete to eat a meal they have often, as eating something new could unsettle the stomach and effect the body in an unknown way. Furthermore, high fibre foods might not be great before a training session or race as they can again cause stomach problem.
The consistency of eating is also important. Regular meals will keep the body’s glycogen stores up ready for a training session. It is also an important way to keep the muscles repaired so they are ready for the next day with less chance of injury.
A sprint athlete diet
So, what are the key points to a sprint athlete diet?
- A sufficient amount of carbohydrates is necessary to fuel the body.
- A higher than normal protein in-take is needed to help the muscles repair and recover.
- Regular meals will help to keep the body’s levels ups and maintain recovery.
- Carbohydrates and protein are excellent pre-and post-training session.
- High fibre meals should be avoided before a race