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Nutrition and Performance in Sport

Christophe Hausswirth


Christophe Hausswirth

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1Since humans first descended from trees, they have focused their intellectual and physical efforts on the search for food, an essential survival activity. Today, this is still the case for the vast majority of inhabitants of our planet.

2This primordial relationship between diet and physical activity profoundly influences our behaviour, our way of living, and how we define the characteristics of good health. In the year 350 BC, Hippocrates had already adopted a rational approach to health, that is without any need to consult oracles or seek divine intervention: “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”

3In the twentieth century, sport was democratized, and went on to become an international passion. Very rapidly, the search for improved performance became an essential driving force in sporting practice, sometimes leading to the application of training programmes and eating behaviour not based on any coherent scientific observations. In parallel, physiologists and nutritional experts, who had devoted themselves to the study of strength and energy expenditure for many years, progressively extended the scope of their investigations. Little by little, the notion of a “good diet” emerged, representing much more than just prevention of, or compensation for, nutritional deficiencies. Thus, a good diet takes an individual’s nutritional needs, personal tolerance, and the influence of heredity into account, among other factors.

4Because of this extensive research, the twentieth century can claim the title of the century of food supplements, but it was also the period during which we gained a better understanding of the notions of optimal energy and water intake. Trainers, athletes, doctors, nutritional experts and dieticians are all interested in determining which dietary practices are the most useful for sporting performance. This book bears witness to the wide-ranging interest this topic attracts.

5The first part of Nutrition and Sporting Performance: Science on Your Plate, reviews the essential scientific information relating to nutrition and how it can promote better sporting performance. The best-known international scientists in the field agreed, each for or specialist area, to write these chapters backed up by the most recent references in their field. What they have to say is undoubtedly worth reading, as they have, together, published more than 2500 scientific articles. In a simple but applied manner, these authors address the problems linked to the use of dietary supplements (distinguishing between those with scientifically proven efficacy and those which have deleterious effects), and the current data relating to hydration during and after exercise (also providing indications on the optimal volumes to drink). They also indicate how our immune defences can be stimulated through an appropriate diet, explaining very clearly that when training at altitude it is even more important to monitor the diet, and showing that managing one’s weight or muscle mass involves a very methodical and strictly planned dietary approach. We also learn that whey proteins are the best proteins for promoting recovery after an effort and when seeking to develop muscle mass through physical activity.

6We hope that after reading the first part of this book, athletes will definitively accept the idea that their state of fitness, health and recovery necessitate multifactorial management if the requirements of their discipline are to be met. We also hope that they will be convinced that improved one-off and repeated performances can be achieved through an appropriate diet (allowing easier adaptation to their training workload, promoting better physical shape and less frequent illness, as well as making injuries rarer).

7When the scientific community started to investigate the constraints related to performing exercise and high-level sport, they rapidly became interested in the physiological consequences of a good, or bad, diet. The second part of this book therefore summarizes the practical and recent scientific data on sports nutrition. A few scientists from the field, along with sports dieticians, studied practical nutritional applications targeted at high-level athletes for a year. By coordinating this group and writing this book, I realized how useful our daily exchanges were, and in this part of the book, I wanted to communicate my own vision of sports nutrition based on many years working at INSEP, by establishing a list of themes harmoniously linking sport to nutrition. Each specific theme is therefore approached through a set of questions and answers (e.g. for energetic recovery, we have: Does the type of sugar I eat affect my recovery? How should I adapt my diet to reduce fat mass?). These themes will help athletes to complete their knowledge, as each answer is provided, as clearly as possible, by a scientist. The more operational aspects are addressed in practical factsheets summarizing the main take-home messages. Athletes will find both answers to their questions, and the necessary ingredients to improve sleep, boost immunity, increase bone health, or optimize their hydration during training or competitions.

8Finally, how could a book on nutrition exist without a few recipes? By inviting the École Lenôtre to participate in this project, I wanted to present athletes with rapid, elegant and appetising recipes, developed based on our scientific observations. The result is as good as we had hoped, and each theme is complemented by one or two recipes. The head chef from the Pavillon Élysée Lenôtre, now trainer for new international Lenôtre franchises, provided his own personal touch in developing these recipes, with particular emphasis on a selection of inventive and inspired combinations in the dishes he presents. This why the title of this book includes Science on Your Plate!

9No doubt about it, reading this book will help anyone to better understand how important nutrition is for sport, in particular, for athletic performance. All the contributors provide relevant and sincere answers, or thought-provoking statements, without using obfuscating language. The challenge, once again, is very important: to understand, and help others to understand, that a good diet – tailored, justified and controlled – is an integral part of improving athletic performance.

10“We do not live on what we eat but on what we digest.”

11Alexandre Dumas.

From left to right, Alain Despinois, Chef at the pavillon Élysée Lenôtre; Christophe Hausswirth, from INSEP.

From left to right, Alain Despinois, Chef at the pavillon Élysée Lenôtre; Christophe Hausswirth, from INSEP.

Photo credit: Thibaut Ruggeri

Table des illustrations

Titre From left to right, Alain Despinois, Chef at the pavillon Élysée Lenôtre; Christophe Hausswirth, from INSEP.
Légende Photo credit: Thibaut Ruggeri
Fichier image/jpeg, 79k

© INSEP-Éditions, 2015

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