Exploring sport online: Athletes and efficient hearts
Exploring sport online: Athletes and efficient hearts

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Exploring sport online: Athletes and efficient hearts

2.5 What's this got to do with sport?

So, we've seen three ways of looking at the how the body works. This is useful science but what has this to do with sport? Do athletes really need to think about their bodies scientifically, or can they just get on and compete in their own sport?

Yes, athletes (or someone in their support team) really do have to think about their bodies in these ways. One obvious example is that athletes have to know what happens when they eat before a competition.

Listen to what our fencer and runner have to say on this subject.

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Sophie Troiano
Nutrition's important in fencing in order to optimise performance. You've got to have your body in the best condition possible in order to compete optimally; you have to supply it with all its calorific requirements.
The main principles of fencing are endurance, speed, agility and well explosiveness really. Diet is very important for this so, you have to eat a diet high in carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, and high protein, particularly after training it's important to rebuild possibly damaged muscle.
As an amateur myself no-one specifically tells me what I can and cannot eat however we are given guidelines by nutritionists especially when we go to training courses and they try and help us make the correct food choices.
In terms of implementing my diet into everyday eating habits it is not that straightforward being a student. You have to try and eat well at breakfast, particularly; you start with a good mixture of cereals, bread and try and take a relatively high intake of protein such as chicken and fish.
Training is usually in the afternoons for me personally so I try and eat maybe a banana or a sandwich about an hour before training. In terms of competition, the night before is very important in terms of eating a large amount of complex carbs such as pasta, rice and in the morning of the competition again eating something with a mixture of complex and simple carbohydrates such as honey on toast, cereal, fruit, this kind of thing.
Foods to avoid are things which are high in fat and low in carbohydrate or other nutritional value, things such as cakes, chocolate obviously you can eat these in moderation but they shouldn't form a large part of your diet.
It's important on a competition day to eat consistently throughout the day to keep energy levels up. In terms of eating before training, as long as you eat 20 minutes to an hour before you intend on commencing that's what's really important…. and often drinking sugary lucozade drinks throughout training can be beneficial. Not only for hydration but to ensure that your blood sugar levels are kept high enough in order to allow you to perform optimally. De-hydration can lead to a very poor performance so keeping optimally hydrated throughout the day as well as during training and competition is very important. Often carrying a large bottle of water with you is the best way to ensure you drink throughout the day.
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Mick Curry
The diet is very, very important. It’s no good doing what some people do and eating junk food, because your levels drop you tend to binge a bit, which is very difficult. If you’ve got it in the house you tend to eat it. Its good to get three meals a day, though, never eat within three hours of a run, apart from chewing a banana or cereal bar. The weekend runner, he would study more on what he eats normally during the week, with a bit of a favourite during the week, he may eat pasta, rices, it just depends what they favour. Not too much alcohol and get plenty of water down, at least two litres a day. Fluid is more important than anything actually, you can hang on without food for a while.
About 2 to 2-and-a-half hours before we race we have cereals, usually porridge or cornflakes, but that’s not like a full meal on your stomach. The porridge or cereals we usually eat on the morning of a race one because they are very easy to digest, easy to prepare. Also helps your bowels, helps the system. One of the most difficult things actually running is if you suffer constipation or whatever, wind.
On the day of competition I can get down a lot of bananas, cereal bars different types, because you get fed up of the same thing. The reason I eat bananas and cereal bars is that they digest very easily; you eat them actually while you’re running. I have to pushing Philip because I’m probably doing double the running, double the fitness, using up double the nutrition, carbohydrate levels dropping, getting thirstier quicker not like an ordinary runner who can hang on for two or three miles, I have to eat and drink when I need to eat and drink. And I have to make sure in the bag on the back of the wheelchair there are bananas, cereal bars and drinks. I also have to feed Philip en route, very often still running doing it. You can probably say what I do is doubling what the other runners are doing.
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Different foods have different values for the body, and elite athletes have to know the most appropriate food. Also the body takes much longer to digest some foods than others – for example, beef takes many hours to digest – so athletes have to know about this to choose what food to eat just before a competition.

Another example is that athletes have to know how their muscles work. A high jumper uses different muscles to a long jumper, and so their training regimes are likely to be very different. An athlete who follows a scientific approach that identifies the particular muscle groups which are important and ensures that they work efficiently is likely to perform better than one who follows a more traditional training schedule which doesn't place as much emphasis on a scientific approach.

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