With the spring and summer months coming up, we thought it would be a smart idea to remind our athletes and parents how important a solid diet is for performance. Sometimes when we’re busy and on the run, especially when the weather gets nice, we sometimes replace healthy meals and snacks with ones that are quick and easy. Unfortunately, that usually translates to a less healthy diet…
Good nutrition is important for people of all ages and physical abilities, but athletes in particular feel the effects of how not eating properly can affect performance. The typical athlete needs a calorie intake ranging from 2000 to 5000 calories a day, depending on gender. If you’re an athlete who lets good nutrition slip on the priority list, consider the ways it can impact both your performance and health.
Energy and Performance
Carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats provide the fuel needed to maintain energy. While watching fat intake is important, severely restricting it from your diet is not the best way to stay healthy. In fact, fat provides essential fatty acids, and your body uses it as an energy source, particularly if your activity lasts longer than an hour. So for our athletes this is critically important. Protein helps build new tissue and is also used as an energy source. So for weight lifting or speed training this can be critical for recovery and results.
Good nutrition is also central to maintaining a healthy weight. If you need to lose weight, severely restricting calories, protein or fat is not only dangerous for your body but also negatively impacts your athletic performance. Instead, The American College of Sports Medicine recommends filling up on high-fiber vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes to get essential nutrients. Lean protein sources and low-fat dairy foods are also recommended to control your body weight. If you’re serious about losing weight the right way, consulting a dietician would be a smart place to start.
We’ve all been told, “Make sure you stay hydrated” by our parents or coaches before. Staying hydrated is vital when you’re working out or participating in sports. Not maintaining fluid balance in your body affects performance and puts you at risk for the effects of dehydration. Dehydration can occur in many different situations, but it’s a major concern if you’re engaged in physical activity in hot or humid conditions. Water is the usual go-to source for staying hydrated, as there are sugars in performance drinks that often times give an athlete a boost, but unfortunately the crash they feel from drinking it forces them to drink more of the same drink. Sticking to water is your best bet.
After the Game
We completely understand that whether you win or lose, your mind is likely not on nutritional concerns after your game. Most athletes don’t consume enough fluids during events, so restoring balance post-game is essential. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests consuming high-sodium foods such as pretzels, cheese and soup in these cases. Eating a small meal containing carbs, fat and protein within 30 minutes of competition is ideal but may be an unrealistic commitment. If this is the case, try snacking on nutritious foods like whole-grain bagels, apples or bananas.
So with the nice weather fast approaching and your activity level increasing, remember to stay focused on what you put into your body! Food is the fuel that makes you go, be sure you don’t fill up on the cheap stuff!