Nutrition plays a critical role in athletic performance, but when it comes to knowing what to eat and how much to eat many athletes are unsure. In a world flooded with diet fads and choices it is difficult to know what is best regarding athletic nutrition. When it comes to eating the right things you need to remember the following:
- Listen to you body! If you are hungry – eat. Listening to your body over scheduled habits is beneficial. Snacks, such as, nuts, pretzels, and yogurt will help your body maintain the “fuel” (energy) it needs to during your workout.
- Don’t skip meals! Skipping meals will only cause your body to feel that it is starving. This will decrease your overall performance and lead you to feel hungry during workouts.
- Eat appropriate portions. Don’t supersize your meals. Figure out what your body wants.
Not sure how much you should be eating? You should be eating carbohydrates (carbs), protein, and dietary fat.
Carbs are an essential part of your diet. They are your primary energy source.
- Examples include, but are not limited to, juice, brown rice, wheat/rice/corn pasta, fruits (oranges, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, pears or bananas), bagels, cereal, English muffins, and whole grain bread.
- An athlete needs 50 % (or up to 60-70 %) of total calories comimg from carbohydrates. (or between 2.5-6.0 grams per pound of body weight).
Protein plays a large role in building and maintaining muscle.
- Prior to exercise:
Include high protein items, such as meat and dairy products as part of every meal.
Snack on items, such as seeds and nuts, to give your body the protein it will need to help you perform.
- Post exercise:
Combine protein (meat, soy, dairy) as part of your post game meal.
Dietary fat can play a vital role in improving performance. Many athletes stray away from fat in their diet. Everyone needs fat to function! Fat is the primary fuel for light to moderate intensity exercise. Even though fat is a valuable metabolic fuel for muscles during endurance exercise it is not necessary to eat more dietary fat. You will satisfy your body’s needs for fat within the confines of a balanced diet.
- How much fat do I need in my diet?
20-30% of total calories should come from a fat source which should already be in foods you consume.
Nutrition plays a critical role in athletic performance. Athletes, coaches, and parents need to recognize wise food choices leading to an increase in optimal athletic performance. Your body needs the best “fuel” in order for it to perform at a top level. Think of it as getting the best “gas mileage” for your body. By making informed food choices, athletes will have an advantage over those who choose to ignore the role that food plays in athletic performance.