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Faster & fairer - science & sport at King's College London

You are what you eat

Nurse at King's College HospitalNurse at King's College HospitalNutrition is the study of food intake to improve health and prevent disease.

Specialist sports nutritionists play an important role in the training of athletes before, during and after competition by designing individual diet regimens tailored to the demands of their particular sports.

They must also make allowance for the cultural and other preferences of competitors: meals and supplements not only have to be nutritious but also tasty.

Magazine cartoon, 1952Magazine cartoon, 1952Regulating carbohydrate intake is particularly important for endurance sports to help provide the energy such athletes need and avoid problems of low blood sugar.

Nutritionists also work to ensure a proper balance of protein to build up athletes' body mass, and of vitamins found in fruit, vegetables and other foods.

They are similarly careful to adjust their regimens to reflect the reduced energy requirements of athletes recovering from injury, while providing advice on the differences between training in winter and summer and warning of the risk of dehydration.

Crucially, they must also be aware of the potential dangers posed by the presence of banned substances in dietary supplements.

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