Where does the fury come from nutrition in elite sport? A young profession at the end of the nineties, nutritionism, has become an essential part for many footballers, athletes, tennis players, cyclists, swimmers or Formula 1 drivers. Nutrition is now a fundamental part of the integral care of the athlete. The proliferation of diets it is linked to the social model that prevails in our days, tending to display a shining public image, mainly on social networks. But at the core of the matter, nutritional strategies consist of eating better to last longer at the top.
From five years to this part, the food model of teams and professionals it has become a factor linked to success and, in the long term, to stay among the elite. A pillar of performance that, as the alma mater of Ineos (former Sky) put it, Dave Brailsford, is measured in marginal gains, apparently negligible at the moment, but lasting over time, according to the specialists consulted by ABC.
Amaia Martioda is a nutritionist in the Kern Pharma cycling team, which is now in its second season in the professional peloton. «Those of us who work in nutrition do so from the accompaniment of sports groups. There is no specific diet that improves performance, we talk about nutritional strategies that prioritize nutrients during the season. We teach changes in diet to make metabolism more resistant, to burn more molecules of body fat or fat substrate. We improve energy sensitivity ».
Guillermo Gomez Vera He is head of the sports nutrition unit of the Cemtro Clinic and nutritionist of Alcorcón, of the Second football division. «The boom is due to the importance we give to the image and the impact of social networks. There are many gurus who sell these diets as if they were miracles with short-term results. But this does not happen if there is no professional advice. It can lead to nutritional deficiencies, eating disorders. Footballers, athletes or celebrities bring out these fad diets because there is always some economic interest behind it ».
Why is diet so important for athletes? In the opinion of Gómez Vera, «proper nutrition gives you a minimal gain in performance. But it helps you stay in the elite much longer. An athlete has brutal wear and tear. Top-level sport is not healthyBecause he takes his body to the limit to lower the mark, score more goals or go faster. A good diet allows you to tackle high-load workouts and recover for the next one. Also to prevent injuries due to muscle and bone stress to which footballers are subjected.
Each sport has its own food peculiarity. “In intermittent sports, soccer, tennis, basketball, in which crashes and blows predominate, a medium intake of carbohydrates and proteins is needed,” Gómez Vera informs. Physique is tested and recovery is needed. In endurance sports, cycling, athletics, triathlon, carbohydrates (pasta, rice) are imposed. They do not train for an hour, but for a long time and the competitions are very long. In the modalities of force, of intense effort, short duration and rest, such as weightlifting, protein should be consumed (meat, fish, eggs, legumes) because there is a lot of muscle wasting and high tension ».
The nutritional planning In a professional cycling team it is all about this. “During the competition period, we focus on feeding so that they can recover from one high-load workout to another. It is about arriving at the races with full glycogen tanks and teaching the cyclist not to run out when competing », says Amaia Martioda. Each cyclist is a world, also in food. “It is an individualized job because each cyclist has a profile. There are those who have problems adjusting their weight and others who have a good nutritional education. You have to take care of everything, including aid stations.
Guillermo Gómez Vera appeals to professionals, not to miracle diets. «Intermittent fasting can be dangerous for a high-level footballer. In addition to being fit for the coach, many look for advertising space with branding, defined abs and stuff. And it is very dangerous. The seasons are getting longer, wear and tear can be important and the lack of nutrients has consequences at the level of injuries ”.
And Amaia Martionda argues that diet cannot be an obsession. “Many riders have performed much better when they removed the cliché of idealized weight. It would be that they had a bad relationship with food. An excess of control, living continuously weighing food generates tension more than well-being. It cannot be that if he reaches a race with 55.5 kilos instead of 55 of his ideal weight he is already frustrated.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism