Sports Nutrition and You
If you’re an athlete, you understand how important it is to ensure that your body is prepared for intense training sessions and ready to build the endurance necessary to compete at an optimum level all season long. High-level sports require you to take care of your body, and one way you can do so is by paying attention to what you eat and drink on a daily basis.
Sports nutrition can best be described as the specific plan athletes follow so they can rest assured that they are receiving enough vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and even fluids to perform at their best both on and off the field, court, track, or wherever it is they compete.
What You Need to Succeed with Sports Nutrition
High-level athletes burn an impressive amount of calories, which means that they must eat foods and drink liquids that supply enough energy to sustain them.
Sports nutrition places a lot of emphasis on the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
Carbohydrates: Healthy, complex carbohydrates help fuel your body. Carbs can come from foods such as vegetables, oats, and even whole grain bread. For many athletes, a high-carb diet makes up approximately 65 percent of their diet.
Fats: Athletes must include fats in their diet in order to sustain their energy. Foods containing healthy, unsaturated fats include avocados, pecans and sunflower seeds.
Protein: Protein consumption helps athletes stay strong, accelerate their recovery times, and build muscle mass. Protein-rich foods include chicken, fish, eggs and lentils.
Now that we’ve discussed macronutrients, what about micronutrients? These are important, too!
Micronutrients: Micronutrients include minerals such as iron, zinc, and copper as well as vitamins such as C and E. These and other micronutrients serve your body well in terms of supporting bone health, boosting your immune system, and preventing oxidative stress. Athletes should include micronutrients in their diet alongside the aforementioned macronutrients. Examples of foods containing micronutrients include tomatoes, peanut butter, bananas, broccoli, kiwi and sweet peppers.
Let’s also not forget the importance of staying hydrated!
Fluids: When you exercise, your body’s temperature rises and you begin to sweat. Proper hydration is an essential component of sports nutrition because if you become dehydrated, you’ll likely feel weak and fatigued. Running, jumping, and performing other repetitive movements requires athletes to stay hydrated because they lose electrolytes. The best form of hydration is water, but some athletes do make a point to replace their electrolytes with beverages containing electrolytes such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Generally, the amount of fluids you need to drink corresponds to how intense your workout is and how much you’re sweating as a result.
No matter what sport you play or what your athletic ambitions entail, it’s crucial to follow a healthy diet that consists of all the fluids, macronutrients, and micronutrients you need to replace the calories you burn and to supply all the extra nutrients your body demands as part of rigorous training and high-level competition.
Most high-level athletes monitor their caloric intake and even eat certain foods at certain times; the latter is referred to as nutrient timing. An example of nutrient timing? Eating a dense, non-fruit carbohydrate food during or after exercise.
Whether or not you subscribe to the idea of nutrient timing, it’s at least wise to plan your pre-workout and post-workout meals. Planning your meals in advance can help you stay on track and maintain an ideal sports nutrition diet—a diet that proves its worth when it’s time to lace up your shoes and put on your uniform.
Supplements: To Take Or Not To Take?
Some athletes elect to take supplements as part of their sports nutrition plan. Popular supplements include Omega-3 fish oils; L-Carnitine; Creatine; Arginine; Taurine; Zinc; and Ginseng. Vitamin supplements such as vitamin D and vitamin B complex may also be beneficial.
It’s important to note that some doctors and nutritionists are not quick to endorse supplements. You should, therefore, conduct research and seek advice from your doctor or nutritionist before starting a supplement that claims to enhance athletic performance. You may even wish to consider having your vitamin and mineral levels tested so you can see for yourself where you may be lacking and then focus on remedying those deficiencies accordingly.
A Final Note About Sports Nutrition
Athletes who pay close attention to the foods they are putting in—not to mention the foods they are keeping out—of their bodies will feel stronger and, therefore, more capable of reaching their athletic goals.
About Firelands Health
Firelands Regional Medical Center is a not-for-profit medical center in Sandusky, Ohio. For more information about Firelands and the care we can provide for athletes, please visit www.firelands.com or call Dr. Widmer's office at 419-732-0700.