The role of nutrition in physical fitness (2023)

Whether you're a competitive athlete, play a recreational sport, or practice yoga, there's no question that physical activity has many health benefits. When it comes to maximizing your workouts or improving athletic performance,nutritionand physical activity go hand in hand.

What we eat before and after exercise, as well as on a regular basis, can make a big difference in how we feel and perform during activity. The correct balance of macro and micronutrients can vary depending on your level of fitness and the type of activity you do. Still, it's important to get enough nutrition to maintain your health and optimize your performance.

Is nutrition more important than exercise?

Nutrients and your sports performance

Proper nutrition is essential to maximize athletic performance. Without enough carbohydrates, protein, and fat, athletes can feel sluggish and tired during a workout or feel hungry. Athletes may also need to focus on specific vitamins and minerals for physical performance, such as iron, vitamin D, and zinc.

Nutrition for physical activity is highly individualized. It is often helpful to consult a sports nutritionist to review her individual needs and make recommendations specific to her body and activity level.

Evidence shows that proper nutrition supports activity

Although we often think of the health benefits of nutrition and physical activity separately, there is evidence that integrating nutrition and physical activity produces greater benefits than focusing on one or the other.

Additionally, research shows that exercise informs dietary choices, and people who exercise are able to make more nutritious choices.Nutrition can also support muscle recovery by reducing inflammation. One study showed that more physically active people with a higher intake of antioxidants had lower levels of systemic inflammation.

Basics of nutrition and weight loss.

The importance of macronutrient balance and timing

Consuming adequate amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) to fuel our bodies is essential for optimal exercise performance.

  • carbsthey are the preferred source of fuel for our bodies. They give us the energy we need to get through the day and maximize workouts and sports performance.
  • ProteinIt is important for building muscle as well as repairing and recovering bones, joints, and ligaments after a workout.
  • Gordoit keeps us full and satisfied, helps protect our bones and joints, and increases the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K.

When it comes to fueling exercise, finding the right balance and optimal timing of macronutrients for your body is critical. Physical performance and recovery after exercise are enhanced by the consumption of carbohydrates and proteins.

One study looked at the effects of protein and carbohydrates on skeletal muscle regeneration given to athletes through shakes or meals. 35 subjects ran 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and then consumed a protein/carb shake, a meal of white bread and sour milk cheese, or nothing. The study indicated that carbohydrate and protein consumption via shakes or food was preferable as it reduced exercise-induced skeletal muscle damage and had anti-inflammatory effects.

Sports nutrition for resistance exercise.

(Video) Exercise, Nutrition, and Health: Keeping it Simple | Jason Kilderry | TEDxDrexelU

What to eat for optimal performance

A "superfood" is a term often used by the food industry to market a specific food that offers the most nutritional benefits or is exceptionally nutrient-dense.

While some foods are more nutritious than others and can positively affect health, it is essential to keep in mind that no single food is responsible for optimal health or disease prevention.

If you're looking to increase the nutrient density of your diet, including some of the following nutritious foods is a great starting point. These foods, including green leafy vegetables, berries, eggs, sweet potatoes, and turmeric, contain antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, and protein, and are beneficial for athletic performance.

Daily superfoods to have in your kitchen

dark green leaves

The role of nutrition in physical fitness (1)

Dark green, leafy vegetables are full of important nutrients like folate, zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, and fiber. Eating leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, kale, and Swiss chard, increases muscle function in active men and women.

Additionally, the nitrates in leafy greens are converted to nitric oxide, which opens up blood vessels and improves blood flow during exercise.You can incorporate dark, leafy greens into your diet by making kale salads, sautéing spinach in eggs for breakfast, or blending them into a smoothie.


The role of nutrition in physical fitness (2)

Berries are known for their powerful antioxidant properties, making them an important part of an athlete's diet. Exercise causes oxidative stress, which results in the production of free radicals, muscle damage, and fatigue. Including antioxidants in the diet can help improve athletic performance by decreasing muscle damage and inflammation.

Top a yogurt parfait with blueberries, blend strawberries into a smoothie, or add raspberries or blackberries to a salad for an antioxidant boost.

Health benefits of antioxidants

(Video) Nutrition for Physical Activity


The role of nutrition in physical fitness (3)

Eggs, including the yolks, are rich in B vitamins, choline, iron, antioxidants, and high-quality protein, which are important for muscle recovery and repair. Egg protein is considered highly bioavailable, meaning it is easily digested by the body and efficiently metabolized.

Additionally, eggs contain fatty acids that are important for heart health, as well as vitamins and minerals that help with cell growth and tissue repair.Eggs are a quick and easy breakfast, scrambled with vegetables or boiled on the go.

Sweet potato

The role of nutrition in physical fitness (4)

Sweet potatoes are a root vegetable packed with potassium, fiber, and vitamins A and C. They are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates that athletes need for fuel. Getting enough potassium also reduces fatigue, muscle cramps, and feelings of weakness.

Sweet potatoes can be incorporated into your diet in many ways. Top a baked sweet potato with Greek yogurt and almond butter for breakfast, bake slices, add to a salad or bake until crisp and enjoy as sweet potato fries with a burger.


The role of nutrition in physical fitness (5)

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice, native to India, used for cooking and medicinal benefits. It is best known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect and may play a role in preventing chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Turmeric is also a more recent focus of post-exercise recovery research. Evidence suggests that people who use turmeric after a workout reduce muscle soreness and tenderness, reduce muscle damage, and lower inflammatory markers.

Incorporate turmeric into your routine by sprinkling the spice over roasted vegetables, adding it to aCurry, or doinggolden milk. Turmeric is also available insupplement form.

How free radicals damage the body

(Video) Why is Physical Activity & Nutrition Important?

Hydration makes the difference

Proper hydration is critical to overall health and exercise performance. We all lose water through normal bodily functions like breathing, digestion, and sweating. Athletes need to replace the extra water and electrolytes lost through exertion during exercise.

Dehydration can lead to cardiovascular strain, impaired metabolic function, and increased body temperature. People also lose sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium through sweat. To avoid dehydration, it's important to make sure you drink before, during, and after exercise to maintain proper hydration levels.

Sustainable Nutritional Habits

Whether you're training to run a mile, your first 5K or a marathon, start with small, realistic nutrition and hydration goals. Trying to overhaul your entire diet at once can seem overwhelming and probably untenable. Small goals are more sustainable and therefore more beneficial in the long run.

If you feel dehydrated, try investing in afunny water bottle. Enjoy your water with fresh fruit orliquid drink enhancersif you like your water to taste. Try adding an extra glass of water to your day.

Do you want to include more antioxidants in your diet? Try to add a fruit and vegetable to your meals every day. Choose a new nutrient-dense food and add it to your weekly meal plan. Add one each week, and soon you'll have greatly increased the variety of vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Stay hydrated during your runs

A word from Verywell

Sustainable and enjoyable eating habits are the key to reaching your goals. It can be tempting to follow a fad diet or social media trend, but often these diets are restrictive and unsustainable. If you have questions or concerns or would like individualized nutritional recommendations, please seek the advice of a registered dietitian.

frequent questions

  • What are the S.M.A.R.T nutrition goals?

    S.M.A.R.T goals stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. S.M.A.R.T goals serve as small, doable action steps to help you change your behavior and reach your goal. An example of a S.M.A.R.T goal is "I am going to include a vegetable for dinner 3 nights this week."

    Know more:Setting SMART goals for weight loss

    (Video) Sports & Nutrition| UNIT 2 I PART1 I PHYSICAL EDUCATION l Nutrition

  • How does nutrition affect your daily performance?

    Nutrition greatly affects our ability to function, from our physical well-being to our mental well-being. Incorporating nutritious foods into your diet and consuming adequate carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for your needs can positively affect your daily life and physical performance.

  • Why do nutritional needs change as we age?

    Nutritional needs vary based on many factors, including age and stage of life. As we age, we may experience some changes, such as bone loss, loss of muscle mass, thinner skin, and less stomach acid. Some of these changes can make you prone to nutritional deficiencies and you may need to increase your intake of certain foods or add supplements.Aging also causes a slower metabolism and decreased caloric needs.

  • What factors affect your nutritional needs?

    Several factors affect your nutritional needs, including genetics, health status, environment, gut health, stage of life, fitness and activity level, and medications. Talk to a registered dietitian to better estimate your individual nutritional needs.


What is nutrition's role in physical fitness? ›

Without vitamins and minerals there would be no muscle function. Physical activity increases the need for some vitamins and minerals. A well-balanced diet will supply enough vitamins and minerals to cover any increased need due to activity.

How important is nutrition for fitness? ›

Give your body the energy it needs to do the job you want — even if you are trying to lose weight. Skimping on nutrition can reduce muscle mass, lower bone density and cause fatigue. This puts you at risk of injury and illness, increases recovery time, causes hormonal problems, and, for women, menstrual issues.

What is the role of nutrition in physical development? ›

BODY: Grow strong and live long

Proper nutrition is crucial to consider when you care for kids, as it protects against malnourishment, maintains a healthy immune system, prevents obesity and reduces the risk of chronic disease. Some important nutrients for children include: Calcium strengthens bones.

How does nutrition and fitness work together explain your answer? ›

Proper nutrition gives your body the fuel it needs to perform at its highest level. Essentially, it's the key to maximising your body's potential. A hard training session will be the stimulus for achieving your goal, but what you eat will see you over the finish line.

How does good nutrition affect physical health? ›

Adults who eat a healthy diet live longer and have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Healthy eating can help people with chronic diseases manage these conditions and avoid complications.

What nutrition is good for fitness and wellness? ›

Minimally processed foods are the best for sports and weight lifting nutrition. Lean protein, complex carbs and fiber are your best friends, especially if you're trying to lose weight. Your body needs lean protein such as turkey, nonfat Greek yogurt, fish and egg whites to build muscle and stay full.

What are the 3 roles of nutrition? ›

Nutrients have one or more of three basic functions: they provide energy, contribute to body structure, and/or regulate chemical processes in the body.

What are the roles of nutrition? ›

Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and longevity.

What percentage of fitness is nutrition? ›

The bottom line:

To lose weight and keep it off, follow the 80% nutrition, 20% exercise rule. Creating a caloric deficit and speeding up your metabolism through exercise, can help you be successful on your weight loss journey.

How does poor nutrition affect exercises? ›

Poor nutrition can lead to fatigue, dehydration and poor health; all of which negatively affect athletic performance! Fueling your body correctly is often overlooked by athletes but it is an ESSENTIAL aspect in sports performance. Carbohydrates are the body primary source of energy.


1. Winning The Mental Battle of Physical Fitness and Obesity | Ogie Shaw | TEDxSpokane
(TEDx Talks)
2. Nutrition for a Healthy Life
(Alliance for Aging Research)
3. The Role of Training vs Nutrition | Nutrition for Body Composition
(Flow High Performance)
4. Influences on Physical Activity | Nutrition & Exercise
(Straight Up Health)
5. Balance, Fitness & Nutrition with Mickayla Stoner | Ep.30
(Vitae Clinic)
6. The Role of Nutrition Care In Mitochondrial Health - ASPEN 2021
(Nestlé Nutrition Institute)


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