Proper nutrition is essential for everyone, but athletes are often acutely aware of the importance of a good diet. Meals must provide sufficient protein and calories for the body to have enough energy to function, however, eating too much or making poor nutritional choices can be just a bad as not eating enough. The best foods to eat before an event will be those that are rich in energy and easily digestible, such as fruits and carbohydrates.
Fatigue is one of the most important factors in sports, especially those that focus on pushing the limits of endurance or demand a high level of alertness. Tiredness negatively affects performance in people of all skill levels, increasing the frequency of mistakes for amateurs and professionals alike. Getting sufficient rest without oversleeping is essential for optimum athletic performance.
Although not every sport demands brute strength, stronger athletes are far less likely get injured and those that do will tend to recover more quickly. The ideal level of strength varies depending on the sport. More power is good in many situations, however, athletes that rely more on finesse and control may experience a loss of precision if the strength training is unfocused and not geared towards their particular sport, position or playing style.
Biologists and businessmen are fond of saying that it is not so much the strong that feed on the meek, but the swift that often devour the sluggish. Increased speed and reflexes are advantageous in a wide variety of athletics. There are some sports where being quicker may offer very little in the way of an obvious advantage. Unlike being too strong, however, it never hurts to be a little faster.
Stretching should always be a part of any athletic routine, especially those that involve intense physical activity. Like strength, flexibility can greatly reduce the likelihood of a sports injury. Pulled or sprained muscles account for a significant portion of athletic injuries, most of which could be easily prevented by regular stretching. Athletes that are more flexible also tend to have better circulation and greater levels of energy than their less limber counterparts. The ideal times to stretch are generally in the mornings and evenings, however, stretching immediately before athletic activities should be avoided since this increases the chances of pulling a muscle.
Despite their physical nature, all sports ultimately involve some kind of mental challenge. Many sports are highly strategic in nature and winning is often achieved more by wits than physical prowess. Endurance athletes tend to have more of an internal struggle and must call upon a tremendous amount of focus to push through the difficult parts. Though most serious athletes know better, the notion that intellect and sports do not have much to do with one another is still a common misconception.