The importance of nutrition in sports

Joëlle Flück 24. June 2021


In sports, various factors contribute to success. Discover how big the influence of nutrition is.

This article is presented by the Swiss Sports Nutrition Society

The factors that determine success include optimal training, a success-oriented environment in both your private and professional life, successful career planning, good health and nutrition, sufficient and restful sleep, good medical care and a stable psyche.

This list does not claim to be complete but is simply intended to show that a wide variety of factors need to be right - or at least not limiting - in order to achieve athletic success. You could also regard each factor as a link in a chain that is only as strong as its weakest link. The challenge of sports nutrition is to ensure that the nutrition link for the respective sport is strong enough to withstand the load during training and competitions. What’s more, the nutrition should optimally support the body's adaptations to the training stimuli.

The right nutrition can make the difference between victory and defeat

When we think about all the factors that can affect performance – such as genetics, talent, training – nutrition is the safest to manage. While proper nutrition will not turn a mediocre athlete into a champion, some wrong nutritional choices can definitely turn a champion into a mediocre athlete.  Conversely, no one will win just because of their diet, and some people will even become world champions despite and not because of their diet. This is something that many, especially young athletes, forget when they emulate their role models. Everyone has their own potential performance range that can be maxed out to a greater or lesser degree, and nutrition just plays one role among many others.  

Nevertheless, it is certainly worth optimising your nutrition when it comes to training or competitions. The right food and drink at a competition as well as your gastrointestinal tolerability can be trained to reduce the potential risk of a decrease in performance on the day. In the case of medical problems such as an energy, vitamin, or mineral deficiency, it is also worthwhile getting your eating habits checked by a sports nutrition specialist as well as medical support measures from a sports physician. Furthermore, your diet needs to be adapted to special ambient conditions such as altitude, heat or cold during training, competitions as well as everyday life.