Sports nutrition is a fairly self-explanatory term; it effectively refers to tracking how nutrition and dietary intake can affect athletic performance at any number of sports.
Today, it forms both a professional service for athletes looking to make the most of their training regimes and their physical capabilities and a substantial consumer industry for exercise enthusiasts looking to be as healthy as possible. Yet the principles of sports nutrition go much further back, to the very beginning of organised athletic competition.
For example, when the Ancient Greeks and Romans started the Olympic games - arguably the very first athletes - they ate a special regime of grains, meat and wine in exacting amounts meant to lead to the best performance come the competitions.
Whilst modern sports nutrition would likely frown on the central role wine and other alcoholic beverages, the ancients believed it had extremely positive attributes which would help athletes if drank in the right amounts. For example Milo of Croton, a wrestler who won five Olympic games between 532 and 516 B.C. ate "9 kilogrammes of meat, 9 kilogrammes of bread and 8.5 litres of wine a day." This may seem like a great amount but its important to note that to the ancients, the fermentation process of alcohol was the easiest method of removing impurities and toxins from drinking water.
Today, sports nutrition is an extremely scientific discipline that not only looks at how training regimes can be improved by diet but also by specific supplements. Several key goals are identified as core principles and desired outcomes under this discipline:
Modern athletes benefit from a structured, scientific approach to nutrition based upon the huge advances in biological and pharmaceutical sciences over the last century. Whilst the ancients based their regimes upon foods such as bread and meat, modern nutritionists base their advice upon the substances contained within these foods - carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, etc. Also, whilst people across the world have used plants such as coffee beans, cocoa leaf, guarana berries and other such supplements to boost their energy levels and health, the modern athlete has access to distilled, refined versions: caffeine pills, creatine powder, protein shakes and much more.