Sports Nutrition: Carotenoids and Visual Performance
Excelling in any form of sports requires both physical training and nutrition. Proper nutrition prepares the body, fuels the physical activities, and helps in recovery after training. But how else can nutrition play more part in an athlete’s life?
In sports, we have something called vision skills. According to the American Optometric Association, there are 9 important sport vision skills.
Here are the following skills:
Dynamic Visual Acuity refers to being able to see objects clearly during movement.
Visual concentration refers to being able to focus on the object of attention and be able to filter distractions.
Eye tracking refers to being able to follow objects with minimal head motion to help maintain balance and improve reaction time.
Eye-hand-body coordination refers to coordinated muscle response based on visual stimulus.
Visual memory refers to being able to process and remember fast-moving objects in the environment.
Visualization refers to being able to visualize desired performance so as to help during the actual performance.
Peripheral vision refers to being able to see actions in the peripheral field of vision without turning the head.
Visual reaction time refers to the speed at which the brain interprets and reacts to the visual stimulus.
Depth perception refers to being able to accurately judge distance between objects and people within the field.
What are carotenoids?
Carotenoids are a class of phytonutrients responsible for the bright orange, yellow, and red pigments in fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids play an important role in the health of plants.
Carotenoids also have an antioxidant effect in the human body, fighting off free radicals. It also has cancer-fighting properties. Carotenoids also have anti-inflammatory properties.
What are the eye carotenoids?
There are about 750 different carotenoids, of which 50 are found in foods. 3 of these are found in the eye, although distributed in the retina, it is concentrated in the macula where the sharpest vision and color vision is processed. Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Meso-zeaxanthin comprise the macular pigment of the eye. These macular pigments filter light waves before reaching the photoreceptors and may help to protect the retina.
How does carotenoids intake affect sports performance?
Visual performance is an important aspect of sports and plays a big role especially in a professional level. Studies have shown that the macular pigments reduce glare, shorten photostress recovery times, enhance contrast sensitivity, and increase visual range. These benefits can greatly affect sports performance.
Dietary carotenoids can be found in lots of fruits and vegetables.
The eye carotenoids in particular can be found in the following food sources:
Leafy green vegetables: kale, spinach, lettuce and etc.
Different kinds of squash
Carotenoid eye supplements are also available in the market. But before starting any supplementation, consult an eye doctor.
Specialists in sports nutrition and sports vision would measure macular pigment optical density to identify needs for supplementation.