Sprinting Nutrition & Sports Supplements for Sprinters
Additionally, you could also include in this grouping the 100 and 400 metres hurdles, as they all rely primarily on the generation of explosive speed and power from an athletes anaerobic energy reserves.
For a sprint specialist their power- to-weight ratio is of critical importance, so athletes should aim to maximise strength while maintaining low body fat levels.
If you are a junior athlete or still in the early stages of your sprinting career there may be periods when it is desirable that you promote continued strength and power development, however this is less of a priority if you are a more experienced athlete and have been in the sport for some time.
As a competitive sprinter it is usually necessary to train throughout the year, with your off-season containing a considerable amount of weight-training, with approximately a third of your total training schedule being completed in the gymnasium.
sprinters need to maintain low levels of body fat whilst at the same time eat the quantity and variety of foods to meet their nutritional demands and expedite rehabilitation and recovery between races and training sessions
For the rest of the time you should focus on refining your running style, technique and method with a multitude of sessions on the track and drill practice to improve such aspects as leg speed (cadence), extension, knee lift, arm action, overall form and sprint starts.
As the start of the athletics season approaches your sprint training emphasis should switch to high quality sprint sessions of variable periods, punctuated with appreciative amounts of recovery time.
As for the nutrition necessary for your training efforts to be of the greatest benefit, you must eat enough carbohydrate to meet your training requirements, however, you do not need to reach the intake levels of endurance athletes.
As a sprinter you have to maintain a low body fat level while at the same time eat the quantity and variety of food to meet your nutritional demands and expedite rehabilitation and recovery between races and training sessions.
In other words your diet must be nutrient-rich, and the best way of achieving this is by eating plenty of pasta, bread, cereal, rice, starchy vegetables, fruit and sweet dairy items, particularly on the days of more rigorous training, but less so when your load is lighter or when you have a day off.
Moderate measures of lean meat, skinless chicken, eggs, reduced-fat dairy products, tofu and lentils – in small amounts – should also be part of your daily nutritional intake to provide sufficient levels of protein.
Be careful with energy-packed food such as pastries, cakes, chocolate, fizzy drinks and takeaways
Ensure you keep such foods to a minimum, ideally as a treat only.
Appropriate snacks including sandwiches, fresh fruit and yoghurt and reduced-fat milk drinks should also be included before and after training sessions as they are nutritious fuel-filled foods and will help optimise effort and performance levels and also aid post training recovery.
Power to weight ratio and body fat
Successful sprinters need low body fat levels while at the same time having high measures of muscle and strength; the good thing is that in male athletes this usually occurs naturally as a result of the gradually improving training effect on the best genetic stock.
Some male sprinters, however – and you may be one – need to reduce body weight in the run-up to competitions in order to enhance their power to weight ratio, while female sprinters regularly have to manipulate food intake and training to achieve their optimum body fat levels and power to weight ratio.
As a sprinter, if you do need to reduce your body fat percentage you should focus on excess energy in your diet, especially unnecessary fat, sugar-rich foods and drinks, and any alcohol.
Such an approach will aid weight loss whilst not having any detrimental effect on the nutritional quality of your diet… in fact it could well improve it.
Carbohydrate loading is important prior to competition in several areas of athletics, however, because sprints do not drain an athletes glycogen stores, it is not really needed in such events.
Instead you should carry on following a sensible nutritional regimen similar to that followed during training except with a slightly lower intake of energy, the need for which declines at this time.
On the other hand, if you are a junior athlete taking part in multiple events all through the day, energy requirements will be high, so you have to perform a difficult balancing act between taking in the right amount of fluid and fuel while at the same time making sure that you are free from digestive discomfort.
If you have a problem in finding that right balance it might be a good idea to consult a professional sports dietician.
In order for all sprinters to avoid hunger yet at the same time not run the risk of a stomach upset, the sensible start to the day of the competition is a usually a carbohydrate-filled meal of your personal choice.
Eat something you enjoy as this will be easier to consume but is also more likely to put you in a positive frame of mind.
If you would like some guidance on what to eat, then the following list of foods which are acceptable to eat three to four hours before fitness training or competition may be of assistance:
- crumpets with honey or jam and flavoured milk
- breakfast cereal with low fat milk
- fruit salad with fruit-flavoured yoghurt
- bread roll and cheese or meat filling and a banana
- baked potato with cottage cheese filling and a glass of milk
- pasta/rice with sauce containing reduced-fat ingredients (lean meat, tomato, vegetables etc.)
- baked beans on toast
Nearer to the start of competition – one to two hours before – the following foods would be acceptable
- beakfast cereal with milk
- fruit-flavoured yoghurt
- milkshake or smoothie
- cereal bars
- sports bars (ensure to check for protein content and carbohydrates)
- liquid meal supplement
In the event that there is less than an hour between your events you would be advised to stick to:
- formulated sports drinks
- fruit cordial
- carbohydrate sports gels
- sports bars
It is possible that suitable food and drink may not be stocked at a competition venue and therefore it would make sense for you to take along your own food supplies.
It is also recommended that as a sprinter you try out a competition day routine during training so that you are confident it works well for you… you want to avoid any surprises on the day.
As an athlete optimum hydration is essential if you are to train and compete effectively.
Specially formulated sports drinks are ideal, not only do they help to maintain correct levels of hydration; they also contain carbohydrate to assist with the replacement of vital energy stores, and small amounts of electrolytes (salts) to replace what has been lost during training or competition.
When training or competing in hot conditions, extra attention needs to be given in this area, with refreshing fluids, as cool as possible, on hand to drink at every opportunity.
As dehydration adversely affects physical ability, form and decision-making function, it goes without saying that it has to be avoided at all costs.
Following a competition or intense training session athlete fluid losses should always be carefully assessed – weighing before and after will give a good indication of the amount of fluid loss, and is considered the best method – the lost fluids should ideally be replaced as quickly as possible.
The recovery phase
After competition or training has been completed, it is always advisable for sprinters to follow the correct recovery procedure as, in many instances; this stage is just as important as the initial preparation stages, especially during periods of intensive training or competition.
There are three golden rules to a sprinters successful rehabilitation; and we refer to them as the three R’s:
Therefore your ideal recovery meals and snacks must contain carbohydrate (for fuel replacement), some protein (for muscle repair and/or gains) and plenty of fluids to replace sweat losses.
Want to get involved in sprinting?
If you’re not currently involved in track-and-field athletics and sprinting in particular and are keen to learn more about taking part then read on. Here we’ve brought together a number of useful links to athletics organisations that may be able to help you.
Want help with nutrition?
Get in touch now for more information about sprinting nutrition and the use of sports supplements to improve your speed, explosive power, strength and fitness for quicker times and improved performances. Our team of sports scientists and nutritionists are always happy to help.