ATHLETES should pay more attention to eating a balanced diet rather than seeking quick-fix performance enhancing solutions, according to the latest nutritional research.
Nutritionalists say sports people are slowly waking up to the potential of straightforward balanced eating in improving training and competition, and may move away from performance-enhancing protein drinks and other similar compounds on the market.
John Ventham, from Glasgow University's department of human nutrition, has a particular interest in food and sport. He maintains the ideal sports diet comprises 60-70 per cent carbohydrates, 20-30 per cent fat and 10-15 per cent protein.
Mr Ventham, a research scientist, said: "Sports nutrition is becoming more and more focused as athletes are seeing the benefits of it and are now actively seeking advice on what to eat."
Nutritionalists say many athletes eat too much protein in the belief that it will build more muscle and help them improve performance. But the sports diet, supported by Mr Ventham, gives the body most of what it needs to sustain high levels of training and so improves performance.
He said: "It is training that brings about improvements in performance and so a balanced diet, by helping to maximise sustainable energy levels, allows for highly effective training."
Mr Ventham also casts doubt on a number of other performance aids, including food trends such as vitamin and mineral loading and consuming esoteric substances such as ginseng. He says there is little or no evidence they improve sports performance significantly above and beyond a good diet.
The popularity of isotonic sports drinks is perhaps nothing more than a fad. But Mr Ventham says these are beneficial simply because they ensure that sports people do not become dehydrated. But fruit juice with a touch of salt could have a similar effect.
* See research papers