When asked to speak on the topic of sports nutrition, what everyone expects to hear are the specifics around the sport itself. Questions usually include:
- What do I eat during exercise?
- What do I do immediately before and immediately after?
- How can I improve my performance specific to the exercise itself?
While these sport-specific details are important to your best performance, focusing only on these event-specific principles pulls attention away from the "meat and potatoes" of high performance nutrition -- the base or the foundation diet. What you eat on a daily basis, and during recovery between your activities, forms the base to fuel your body for sport.
Consider how you might train for a running or walking event. Any program you find should have an initial period in which you build a base. Once this foundation of fitness has been built, then and only then do we add race-specific training. If this process is reversed, injuries can occur and performance benefits will not be as great.
The same goes for high-performance nutrition. You must first build a base of daily nutrition habits, then add the sport-specific nutrition recommendations. Without the base, the sport-specific recommendations will not be as effective.
For example, endurance athletes training long distances are encouraged to consume 1.0-1.5g of carbohydrate/kg body weight within 30 minutes of exercise to facilitate a faster recovery and replacement of glycogen (your body's storage form of carbohydrates). If we solely focused on this recommendation but didn't look at carbohydrate intake across the day, these athletes could experience low energy and may not sufficiently refuel carbohydrate stores. This would have a negative impact on future training.
Start with the foundation.