When it comes to sport, there's a misconception that natural talent and rigorous training schedules are the only tools required to edge out competitors.
But the reality is that covering these aspects alone can never deliver a successful outcome without giving due consideration to nutrition.
Retired athlete Derval O'Rourke cited good nutrition as one of the key factors which allowed her to excel in a sport where the competition is so intense.
The advice I received with regards to nutrition was incredible and I think it was one of the key areas for why I performed well. It helped me stand apart from my competitors because that was a box that I was ticking
The Cork hurdler achieved incredible feats in the Ireland vest. She holds multiple Irish records, won five championship medals, including a gold medal in the 2006 World Indoor Championships, and ran in every outdoor championship event between 2002 and 2012.
One of the major problems O'Rourke encountered in her time as an athlete was fuelling up on race days but she devised a clever routine to overcome her anxieties and stock up on the right foods.
On a race day, you get nervous and suddenly you don't want to eat so that needs to be worked out long before a race day. What I use to do was make a schedule and work back from the time the race starts. I wrote down everything as far as eating a snack goes to heaving a drink to hydrate. Everything goes into the schedule and I make sure everything is consumed
Some careful planning and making a concerted effort to be more nutritionally aware of what foods will add value to your preparation can produce drastic improvements in your overall performance levels and reduce muscle damage.
It's difficult to resist the fearful anticipation of a race or but what you can do is stock up on food before the emotional and psychological upheaval begins. In the final few days before a race, you should focus on increasing your protein and carboydrate intake.
Sources of good carbohydrates are easy to locate. Brown bread, rice, and pasta are affordable and convenient to prepare. Foods packed with protein are equally accessible. Eggs, red meat, fish, and nuts are all advisable ways to get in adequate portions of protein.
But don't neglect the liquid sources of protein. Milk, particularly protein milk or chocolate milk, requires no preparation and its ability to prevent muscle damage makes it an ideal choice for post-training nourishment.
Yogurt is also a recommended source of protein. Flavoured or natural yogurts can be eaten on their own or they can be added as a topping to a bowl of porridge or muesli.