Athletes Need a Proper Diet

1167998_healthy_lifestyleWhen I was in high school, I played competitive soccer for a club team and my high school team. During the summers we would practice a lot. I remember there were days when I would have three different practices. It was hectic and sometimes hard to get meals in. A lot of the girls that I played with, including myself, would end up losing weight. We were always really exciting about this given that we wanted to look our best as high school teens. However, most fitness experts would have probably considered us borderline anorexic. Why? It was not that we were not eating. It was that we were exercising so much and not compensating with more food to fuel our bodies.

It is important for athletes to remember that they need to consume the calories they lose from exercise. For athletes, it is unhealthy to lose more than 2 or 3 pounds each week. Instead, you should vary you diet and make sure to include healthy foods.

When picking foods, make sure you eat lots of carbohydrates because they will give you the energy you need to sustain yourself during competition. Fats will make up approximately 1/3 of your diets and protein should be comprised of a little over 10%. Overall, just eat healthy and continually replenish your body throughout the day.

Sports Nutrition

How to Get More Protein

1021157_cracked_eggHealth experts usually advise that people consume a good amount of protein. Specifically for athletes, protein is an extremely important nutrient. Why is this? Muscles are made from protein. Unlike other organs, there is no place for the body to store protein. So, the only way for our muscles to remain healthy and perform properly is by consuming the right amount of protein.

Protein can be found in a variety of foods. You do not just have to eat a lot of steak to get more protein in your diet. In fact, the 2 main sources of protein come from animals or plant and vegetables. Animal proteins include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. All of the animal proteins have nine essential amino acids as well. Plant proteins include foods like legumes and white grains. Plant proteins are good sources of protein, however they do not have all the essential sources of amino acids that animal proteins have. If you are going to consume plant proteins, consider eating a complementary protein with it so you get more value from the food.

Most Americans typically consume plenty of protein, however if you feel that your diet is lacking, consider adding some of these key food items to your daily intake.

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The Best Hydration Choices for Athlete Diets

1012234_cool_drink1One Saturday, I spent the day with my dad. We had a great day and ate more than we anticipated. It was the weekend, we figured. The thing I remember about the day was my dad kept drinking diet coke all day long. I don’t remember him ever drinking water. And, at the end of the night (probably 10 diet cokes later) he said to me, “I am so thirsty.” Then, he went to the fridge and got another diet coke. It was hilarious to me that he was using diet coke to quench his thirst – especially with all the options for effective hydration on the market out there today. And while it may not be that imperative for my dad to stay properly hydrated on a Saturday night, it is extremely important for athletes to stay adequately hydrated.

Athletes need to make sure they are choosing the right drinks to stay hydrated. Water is obviously the best option. It will replenish water fluids the body lost while exercise. Dairy is ok but it sometimes causes a phlegm problem. Also, juice is good as long as it does not have too much sugar.

If possible, avoiding caffeinated beverages will be ideal. These beverages actually dehydrate the body. Lastly, sports drinks are great for endurance athletes because they provide electrolytes that help with overall performance.

Hydration, Sports Nutrition

Carbohydrates are Important for Athletes

912742_wild_riceFor some reason when you hear the words “diet” and “athlete” together you immediately think protein. Maybe it is the images of all the body builders drinking their protein shakes that you cannot get out of your head. Or, maybe protein is just talked about a lot, especially if you want to be lean. However, did you realize that for an athlete the most important nutrient is not protein? Although protein is beneficial, athletes gain the most from the amount of carbohydrates stored in their body.

Carbohydrates are particularly important to athletes during the beginning stages of exercise. They provide the athlete with approximately 40 to 50 percent of their energy requirement. Additionally, the carbohydrates in an athlete’s body yield more energy per unit of oxygen than any other nutrient. And, as an athlete begins to increase the intensity of their workout, the utilization of the carbohydrates in their body also increases.

Because of carbohydrates extreme importance athletes will eat foods high in carbohydrates such as spaghetti, potatoes, lasagna, cereals, and other grain products. They will usually consume these foods a few hours before the event. However, if the event is going to require a lot of endurance, than the will most likely start consuming high carbohydrate meals up to 3 days prior to the event.

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Variety is the Best Diet for Most Athletes

1179461_vegetablesOur human nature often forces us to become creatures of habit. We make a habit of so many things in our lives. A lot of times we do not even realize that we are doing this. I have a habit that I am well aware of. In fact, it has become more of an accident. Every morning, I wake up and go to McDonalds and get a large diet coke for breakfast. I’ve been doing it for years. If I am honest, my meals throughout the week are often the same as well. A lot of people are probably like me. Why? We like what we like. However, if you are an athlete, eating in this repetitive manner may not be the best for your performance. According to studies, to get the most out of your diet, you should change up what you eat. Here’s why.

• When you vary your food choices, you allow yourselves to get more nutrients from other foods.
Eating different foods decreases the risk of exposing yourself to excess amounts of harmful agents.
• If you vary your foods, you will need to rely less on supplements.
• When you eat a variety of food, your overall health is increased. Studies suggest that you will be healthier and have a reduced risk of disease.

So shake it up a little bit, especially the next time it comes to picking out your meal. A little variety never hurt anyone.

Sports Nutrition

What’s the Best Diet for an Athlete?

1189704_ripe_strawberries_3What we eat has a huge impact on how our body functions. Most of us think of dieting in terms of losing weight, however, for our body to function properly, it is especially important that we eat correctly. We have probably all experienced exhaustion from not eating. The fatigue was our body’s way of telling us that it needed fuel. You can probably imagine then how important an athletes diet must be.

Getting the right foods is imperative for an athlete to be successful. To often athletes rely on miracle supplements or drinks for success in their pursuits. Unfortunately, there is not one thing that an athlete needs to perform at their peek level.

However, if you are an athlete, maintaining a proper diet is not rocket science either. A good diet is well balanced. An athlete should take advantage of all the nutrients available to them to aid them in their performance. Nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water all work together to allow the athlete to be healthy and in good shape for competition. Athletes need to eat from all food groups and make their snacks count. When they do this, they will have the energy they need to sustain them for the competition.

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Does the Paleo Diet Work?

1141335_meet_4If you have been to your local bookstore lately than you may have stumbled across a new health book entitled, “The Paleo Diet For Athletes.” This book contains information on an athletes diet and it is based on clinical, nutritional, and historical science. According to the books subtitle, it will allow an athlete to obtain their “peak athletic performance.” The book discusses a lot of interesting topics including getting a competitive edge, meal timing to help turbo-charge performance, how to improve long-term health, fueling up for specific sports, and the best recovery methods after an event. It sounds like a great resource for athletes. However, does the diet work?

According to sources, not only does the diet work, but also it is very straightforward and easy to follow. The great thing about the book is it teaches you proper nutrition, not a fad diet. The book been praised by its readers, and the following reasons help explain the diet’s effectiveness.

• It benefits your muscle development and anabolic function.
• The diet helps reduce tissue inflammation common among athletes.
• There is a decrease of catabolic effect on the bones and muscles, which allows for protein synthesis.
• High amount of nutrients helps promote long-term recovery.

Try the Paleo Diet today, especially if you are an athlete.

Sports Nutrition

High Performance Doesn’t Require a High Protein Diet

There is a misunderstanding regarding claims that athletes must eat high protein low carbohydrate diets in order to maximize performance. Following this type of diet may actually lower performance and create long term health issues.

528463_wing_steakCarbohydrates are the most important source of energy for athletes. Athletes should typically eat between 55-60% carbohydrates in total calorie intake from unrefined and unprocessed sources such as whole wheat breads, pastas, crackers, brown rice, oatmeal, and fruits and vegetables. The body is able to convert carbohydrates to energy more quickly and efficiently than protein or fat. Carbohydrates provide several B vitamins as well as important minerals. Carbohydrate consumption does not in itself cause weight gain. Any overeating, whether fat, protein, or carbohydrate will cause weight gain.

Protein is important with the production of hormones, blood cells, enzymes, and assists with immune function. It is used as fuel when the body runs out of carbohydrates. However, substituting protein for carbohydrates can actually result in a reduced performance while exercising as well as added fat storage in the body. Athletes can “hit the wall” from the body’s inability to manage energy correctly from a lack of carbohydrates.

A good rule of thumb for an athlete’s diet is 12-15% protein, 25-30% fat, and 55-60% carbohydrates. Protein requirements for an athlete are slightly higher than for non-athletes.

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High Protein Diets for Performance

High protein diets, such as the Atkins and South Beach diets, have gained in popularity over the years for their efficient weight loss. Many athletes have lost weight using these diets. However, athletes should be aware of the effects of a high protein diet. Much of the weight lost using these diets is due to a lower calorie intake and to water loss that 712043_peanuts__1occurs with muscle glycogen depletion. Glycogen is energy that is stored in muscles, and it retains water in the muscle. This stored energy and water is essential to high performance.

Endurance athletes understand the need for a high carbohydrate low fat diet. Strength athletes have traditionally believed that a high protein diet is key for building muscle. Sports nutritionists believe this is an exaggeration among strength athletes, such as weightlifters. Powerful muscle contractions require carbohydrates and glycogen in the muscles. Fats and proteins are not able to meet the necessary demands of a high intensity exercise without carbohydrates. Carbohydrates must be consumed regularly to keep glycogen at an adequate level.

Research has shown that an inadequate level of carbohydrates can result in reduced glycogen storage in the muscles and liver, an increased risk of hypoglycemia, and a reduction of serum glucose levels, endurance, and maximal effort. Also, high protein high fat diets can result in increased risk of certain cancers, increased risk of osteoporosis, and a reduced intake of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Sports Nutrition

Athletes Require the Best Diet

834877_high_jumpOlympic Athletes must eat correctly in order to insure that they are in peak form for competition. 28,000 people including over 10,000 Olympic athletes, coaches, and staff, were in Beijing for the recent Olympic Games. Keeping the Olympic Village fed is no small task. What was on the menu?

According to Jillian Wanik, the lead dietician at Aramark, the catering company which handled the Beijing Olympics, the menu was comprised of a combination of resources provided by the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Diabetic Association, and Dieticians of Canada. Traditional Chinese fare and other Asian-influenced dishes were served including Peking Duck, congee (an Asian rice porridge) and various noodle dishes. A traditional Chinese teahouse was also provided in the Olympic Village.

In addition, dishes from around the world, including Mediterranean, European, Caribbean, and the Americas were served, with an emphasis on lean meats and fish, whole grains, and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Registered Dieticians and translators were provided 12 hours a day to insure that athletes got the proper fuel for staying in peak form.

No matter what your activity level, whether it is exercise at the gym, training for a marathon, or an interest in weight loss, we can learn from the Olympic athletes. Eating a variety of meals comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, seafood and whole grains will keep you at your peak.

Sports Nutrition