Note: The foods that our body requires to function efficiently work together as team. Neglect one food group and the others can't give you the optimal benefits that they should be able to.
And, without the correct amounts, type and timing of food intake, your body will not be able to reach its highest level of performance.
Athlete nutrition guidelines: Hydration
1) Water is needed to
- move the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients throughout our body
- to move the blood around which carries the fuels for your cells
- to cleanse waste products from the cells
- keep the body at the right temperature
So how much water should I drink?
Waiting until you're thirsty is not a good idea as
thirst is the first sign of dehydration. You need to drink as much water as possible in small amounts before, during and after your routine. Also, drink cool water but not iced water.
When to drink sports drinks?
If you are going to be training for a prolonged period of time, you will want sports drinks that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes. However, look for sports drinks that contain less than eight percent total solids otherwise it won't be absorbed quickly enough into the body in order for you to get the full benefits. Fructose takes the longest to digest - so that's not ideal.
Athlete Nutrition Guidelines: Diet
A good combination of foods will provide your body with all the essential building blocks that it needs. This includes vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
2) Dairy Group (milk, yogurt, cheese etc.):
Dairy products provide your body with calcium, proteins, vitamin A, and riboflavin. Your body will need at least 3 servings per day: 8 ounces of liquid or about 1.5 ounces of solids. Low fat products are better as they increase the good while giving less bad.
3) Vegetables supply nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Eat lots of different colored vegetables (the darker colors usually have more concentrated and additional benefit). Eat five servings of vegetables a day: 1.5 cups of raw or cooked vegetables, 1 cup of salads or 6 ounces of juice. Broccoli, tomatoes and brussels sprouts, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, greens, and spinach have high levels of Vitamin C.
See vegetable nutrition facts.
4) Meat is a good source of protein used for muscle and strength building. While carbohydrates are used to provide the energy, protein is essential for building new muscle tissue, repairing damaged tissues, maintaining fluids throughout the body and, generally speaking, providing enough power for you to perform the physical activities you require from your body.
Meats are also a good source of iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and zinc. Protein should make up about 15 percent of your total daily calories consumption. You will require three servings per day of meat: 3 ounces of cooked meats, 2 eggs, 1 cup of cooked beans or lentils, or 4 tablespoons of peanut
butter. Good sources of proteins are beef, pork, lamb, poultry (choose lean meats) and dry peas, beans, peanut butter and eggs.
Who requires a high protein diet?
The amount of protein you require, generally speaking, depends on the type, duration and intensity of exercises you are doing? But usually high protein diets are only geared to athletes looking to build muscle mass, like body builders.
It's true that when you are at the initial stages of your fitness build up, you will need additional protein calories for your body to build and tone muscles faster then soon after your protein needs will decrease due to less muscle & tissue building going on. Protein burn as fuel when you do run out of carbohydrates.
5) Grains are a good source of complex carbohydrates including starch and fiber. They also contain protein, Vitamin B and iron.
Consume carbohydrates that are low in sugar, bad fat and processed foods (whole grains are a good choice). Around 60 percent of one's daily calorie requirements should be in the form of carbohydrates!
This is 11 servings of carbohydrates daily: 1 slice of bread, 3 or 4 crackers, half a cup of cereal, rice or pasta, and 1 ounce of breakfast cereal.
What are the functions of Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are required to produce energy in our bodies
- Carbohydrates are converted into sugars for easy consumption.
- Starches in carbohydrates are used for energy in the form of glucose (sugar).
- The liver and muscle tissues also store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen.
- Once our bodies have no more carbohydrates to burn they will then look to other elements like fat, and afterwards protein.
- Using fat as a source of energy reduces performance.
- Once the body begins to burn protein it will be in the form of muscle mass - not a good scenario. To prevent this you should consume carbohydrates during exercises that last more than an hour.
Fruits (like vegetables) are a good source of minerals and vitamins. Melons, kiwis, strawberries and blueberries are all good sources of vitamin C.
Consume 4 servings per day: 1 serving = one whole fruit item like a banana or an apple (or half a grapefruit) or a quarter of a cup of dried fruits.
See fruit nutrition facts and banana nutrition facts (bananas are the perfect exercise fruit.)
7) Calories The more we exercise the more calories we will require. The average person may burn (and therefore require) about 3000 calories per day, but a professional athlete could use up 5000 calories in a day. Professional cyclists in the Tour de France use about 5900 calories a day - about 26 Mars Bars! (See
How many calories burned exercising
If an increase of calorie consumption is required it should be from ALL the food groups, and with lean rather that fatty foods. There's a fine balance between eating too much and providing just enough for muscle gain and energy use.
8) Fats are usually consumed when our bodies are at rest or during low or moderate work levels. Our fat intake should be no more than 25 to 30 percent of our daily calorie intake. This is usually a reasonable amount provided you cut deep fried products, butters and sauces from your diet.
Athlete Nutrition Guidelines: How should one prepare before an Event?
This is a short bullet form summary of proper nutrition for athletes before an important event:
- Eat your final meal at least three hours before the event (not less). If you eat to close to the event you will feel slow and weighed down by the meal, plus your body needs time to absorb the required elements properly to get the most benefits.
- Hydrate yourself properly during the week leading up to the event.
- Your 'final' meal (sounds like the last supper...) should be high in carbohydrates and starch, and easy to digest it. This will help maintain your body’s blood sugar levels during the competition.
- It would be a good idea to limit the protein intake of your final 2 meals before the event as proteins are harder to digest, and, therefore, could have the undesired effect of holding you back.
- No caffeine. Caffeine is a de hydrant. Also be careful to check your energy drink nutrition labels as some energy drinks have caffeine in them.
- Don't eat foods high in sugar before the event, you don't want a wane in energy just when you need it.
- Little oils and little fats in the meals before the event i.e. a large cheesy Pizza does not constitute a good pre-event carbs load!
Hopefully these athlete nutrition guidelines have helped a little.
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