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Brain Function & Fatigue In Student Athletes

Written by Amy Carr -BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and MSci Sport and Exercise Science student

 

Student-athletes may put themselves under an immense amount of pressure to perform optimally in both education and sports performance. It is important to try hard in both if we can, as sport does not last forever. However, student-athletes may need to take extra care of their physical and mental health due to the pressure of balancing multiple commitments. One way we can do this, is through nutrition.

Student-athletes may have less time to recover because of their busy schedule. They may find themselves feeling tired, especially during heavy training periods [2]. Because of this, student-athletes need to consume enough energy throughout the day to minimise the risk of fatigue.

To do this, athletes should try and have a healthy and balanced diet. This can include:

  • Starchy carbohydrates (potatoes, brown rice, wholemeal pasta)
  • Fruit (oranges, watermelon, blueberries, apples)
  • Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, peppers, onion)
  • Good quality protein (eggs, lean meat, poultry, fish, milk)
  • Healthy fat (avocado, nuts/seeds, olive oil)
  • Vitamins and minerals (naturally colourful foods/vegetables)
  • Plenty of water

While a student-athlete may already follow a healthy and balanced diet, they may need to schedule their meals to optimise an outcome. For example, eating regularly may help to boost your energy levels, sustain concentration levels, and allow you to perform better for longer. Unfortunately, eating regularly does not mean you can opt for unhealthy snacks. As we are athletes, we need to prioritise our health!

In addition to eating a healthy and balanced diet, student-athletes could consider eating additional nutrients to enhance their energy levels. An important nutrient to consider is Omega 3. Omega 3 has shown to have positive effects on cognitive brain function [1]. Foods such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna steak all consume omega 3. By consuming a form of oily fish regularly, our concentration levels may increase and therefore, help us perform better in education and sport [4].

Blueberries have also been shown to influence cognitive function. In addition, it can serve as an anti-inflammatory and may increase the speed of recovery [3]. Other foods such as cloves, dark chocolate, berries, beans, vegetables, and nuts may also contribute to improved cognitive function and recovery.

As mentioned above, student-athletes may be at risk of fatigue due to their busy schedule and limited recovery time. Managing both can be extremely difficult, however, by following a healthy and balanced diet and including extra additional nutrients as highlighted above, nutrition can be used as a method to support the physical and psychological demands of being a student-athlete [4].

References

1. Alvarez, S.M., Gomez, N.N., Fonzo, L.N., Sanchez, E.S. and Giménez, M.S., 2017. Nutrition and central nervous system. In Psychiatry and Neuroscience Update-Vol. II (pp. 495-514). Springer, Cham.

2. Brown, D.J., Fletcher, D., Henry, I., Borrie, A., Emmett, J., Buzza, A. and Wombwell, S., 2015. A British university case study of the transitional experiences of student-athletes. Psychology of sport and exercise, 21, pp.78-90.

3. Chan Ho, P.A.R.K., Yi Sub, K.W.A.K., Han Kyo, S.E.O. and Hye Young, K.I.M., 2018. Assessing the values of blueberries intake on exercise performance, TAS, and inflammatory factors. Iranian journal of public health, 47(Suppl 1), p.27.

4. D'Angelo, S. and Tafuri, D., 2020. Nutraceutical: their role in improving sports performance. Sport Science, 13(Suppl 1), pp.7-12.

5. Smith, J.W., Holmes, M.E. and McAllister, M.J., 2015. Nutritional considerations for performance in young athletes. Journal of sports medicine, 2015.

 

 

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