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Core 2: Factors affecting performance

How can nutrition and recovery strategies affect performance?


Key Messages

  • Supplementation is often unnecessary as the body can obtain sufficient nutrients through a balanced diet.
  • For some athletes adequate intake of vitamins and minerals such as iron and calcium is a significant performance issue.
  • Protein supplementation is often unnecessary and can be detrimental to the individual's health or physical performance.
  • Research indicates that the consumption of creatine and caffeine in their recommended dosages can have a positive effect on performance for some athletes.

Supplements can assist AIS athletes to achieve peak performance. However, poor regulation of the supplement industry allows athletes to be bombarded with marketing hype that exaggerates or completely invents unproven benefits arising from the use of supplements. Unfortunately, the driving force behind the supplement practices of many athletes is not sound science applied to the specific needs of a sport. Instead, some athletes are motivated by fear that their competitors might be taking supplements and that they can't afford to miss out on any 'performance edge'.

The results of the present frenzy of supplements in sport are:

  • a small but real risk of a positive 'doping' outcome
  • money being wasted on products that simply do not work
  • time, money and belief being distracted away from the factors that can really enhance health, recovery and performance

http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/supplements (external website)

Dietary supplements can take many forms, including vitamins, minerals, protein, caffeine and creatine products. Supplement intake is routine for many athletes. However, supplements may be of little value if the diet is already well balanced in terms of nutritional requirements. Athletes use nutritional supplements for many reasons, including their belief that:

Supplementation should not replace a well balanced appropriate eating plan. It can be beneficial in circumstances where there are special needs resulting from ill health, poor access to quality food or body deficiencies. The following links will explore supplements in further detail.

The body is unable to manufacture vitamins, so diet must supply them as vitamins are essential to maintain bodily functions. Excessive quantities of some vitamins can be unnecessary, expensive and potentially dangerous.

Minerals are micronutrients that are essential for the body to function properly. Iron and calcium are the two most common minerals deficient in athletes, and inadequate supplies will diminish performance and contribute to health problems.

As protein is responsible for the growth, repair and maintenance of body tissue the use of protein supplements is common amongst power and strength athletes such as weight-lifters, rugby league and rugby union players. Research has shown that most athletes do not need or benefit from protein supplementation.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. While much of the evidence relating to caffeine and performance is still inconclusive, there is general agreement on areas relating to cognitive function, anaerobic performance and aerobic performance.

Creatine products
Creatine is important in energy production as it contributes to the resynthesis of ATP in the first 10 seconds of performance. Advocates of creatine use believe it enables athletes to train more effectively in power sports. It is important in making energy available to sustain short duration explosive activity as in weight-lifting and sprinting.

One of the risks of the use of supplements is ‘inadvertently doping'. This occurs when illegal substances are included in supplementary products.

Further understanding of the supplementation view the following links:

Reflect on how supplementation affects performance, e.g.

Critically analyse evidence for and against supplementation for improved performance.

The following website will assist your studies. Check the tabs across the top.


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