Being an athlete requires lot of nutritional discipline. Any type of sport has a tendency of exerting immense pressure and stress on the body of the athlete. The demands of this stress can only be met through proper diet and nutrition. Statistically speaking an average human being consumes around 2000-5000 calories, subject to gender and level of both physical and mental activities.
At its basic level nutrition is of importance to athletes in that it provides the body with the necessary energy that is required for optimal performance. Apart from strength and energy, the foods we eat are also of great importance to training, recovery and performance. An athlete’s diet in simple terms cannot be compared to that of a normal person. They are always in need of extra calories to keep up with the performance they are required to put out. Also of great importance is their health which is always required to be at an optimal best.
For a optimal performance by an athlete there needs to be a proper diet with the right combination of different types of food. You must be able to get enough of:
- Vitamins, iron and other minerals
The amount that’s required from each group of food will be majorly dependant on;
- The amount of training you do
- The type of sport
- The amount of time spent on the activity or exercise i.e. is it short races, 90 minutes of football,15 minutes of rugby and so on.
It is important to note that people have a tendency to overestimate the number of calories they burn during an exercise so therefore it is important that you avoiding taking in more calories than the ones you have to burn during workout. Basically nutrition helps you as an athlete in energy and performance, weight control, hydration and recovery. Below we take a look at these aspects of optimal athletics
Energy and performance
To provide the fuel that you need for your optimal athletic performance you will need to incorporate carbohydrates, healthy fats and proteins into your diet. Of importance to preventing your muscles from fatigue are carbohydrates. They do this by helping regulate the blood sugar and glycogen levels in the muscles. Fats in regulated amounts are also of great importance to your body as an athlete, especially if you are engaging in longer activities that last for more than one hour. Fats provide your body with the essential fatty acids that are able to provide your body with energy after you have run out of calories. Fats are of great importance to endurance athletes. If you are involving yourself in resistance training, proteins will not only help your body build new tissues but will also provide you with an energy source.
Another important aspect in optimal performance of any athlete is having control over body weight. This aspect varies from sport to sport. Some sports such as athletics and especially long distance running need very lean bodies with lean muscles while others such as heavy weight boxing will require a bulky body packed with muscles.
Weight is always a thorny issue in the lives of athletes. Take for example if you want to lose weight you have to cut down on carbs thereby reducing your intake of calories which resulting into a drop in athlete performance. This will present you with a catch 22 situation.It is therefore of importance to watch your diet to ensure that you don’t amass excess fats. Excess body weight slows you down and negatively impacts on your endurance. It is of great importance for any athlete to always maintain an optimal body weight in order to achieve the required results.
To do this you should incorporate foods such as leafy greens, vegetables rich in fiber, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Other foods that are also favorable to healthy weight include lean protein and dairy that is low in fats. It is recommended that any athlete that wants to achieve optimal weight should employ the services of licensed dietician.
Hydration is very critical to an athlete. The body normally loses a lot of fluids during athletic activities through sweating and breathing. The muscles become fatigued if these lost fluid are not replenished. Your risks of dehydration rise up seriously if you don’t take in enough fluids.
This condition is made even worse when you are performing in a humid or hot environment. Water is the main fluid that you can take in while you are having your physical training or activities. Apart from offering muscle-skeletal lubrication water also helps in transporting fluids to other parts of your body. You can also have sports drinks to replace lost electrolytes. So make sure that you drink up, more so if you are involved in a very intense workout or if you train on a regular basis
Another importance that nutrition has on your body as an athlete is recovery. Normally your body strains a lot during physical activities and it can only be healed by the kinds of food that you eat. When your diet is right the body is able to go back to its old self.
Foods that will help you with the recovery process are those that contain essential vitamins and minerals. These will help your body cells repair, regenerate and also heal. You should eat a lot of carbohydrate and proteins to aid your body in muscle growth and repair. However make sure that the ratio of carbs and proteins are adjusted to the effects of intensity and type of sports to ensure that you don’t take in excess calories. This again requires the services of a licensed dietician to help you with your diet
Generally it is said that you are what you eat. Show me a good athlete and I will show you an athlete who has a lot of nutritional discipline.
An athlete’s diet also needs fruits that are packed with anti-oxidants, here are a fruits that every athlete needs in their diet
Red grapes are very healthy fruits and very low in calories. Imagine eating up to 20 red seedless grapes and knowing that you have consumed a mere 100 calories. Red grapes are tasty enough to eat individually as a snack instead of opting for junk and processed foods that do not add any nutritional value to you. Additionally they add colour, nutritional value and taste to any fruit salad or smoothie. It also does not hurt that red plums are affordable. Another little known fact about red grapes is that they are full of fiber and roughage which will keep you fuller for longer. The feeling of satiety is helpful especially when you are trying to lose weight healthily. This is because you are in a better position to suppress your appetite.
Blackberries are high in antioxidants, but be cautious because they also contain a lot of polyols, the component that is mainly found in sugar substitutes (normally blamed for gas and other abdominal issues).
Among the berries, strawberries make for another great source of antioxidants. Interestingly antioxidants present in strawberries have proven to fight carcinogens an LDL, and also cholesterol that’s notorious for causing heart health. Strawberries are also a great source of vitamin C that’s responsible for protecting the cells in your body from free radical damage
Cherries have been considered as a wonder fruit to incorporate in your meals and we can see why, if their antioxidant content is anything to go by. Cherries are also rich in flavonoids which act as antioxidant and work to remove the byproducts of oxidative stress, and therefore slow down the aging process.
Mangoes are a good source of vitamin A and flavonoids that include betacarotene, betacryptoxanthin and alphacarotene.collectively these compounds have antioxidant effects and also play an important role in maintaining your vision. These compounds will also make your skin glow and radiate. Mangoes are a great and tasty fruit that are a great addition to fruit salads and smoothies meant for both weight loss and detoxing. If you have sugar cravings, mangoes are a great way to soothe them so that you are not tempted to indulge in junk and processed foods.
Beets are very rich in antioxidant properties. Among the antioxidants present in beets include betalain an anti-inflammatory that’s aids in detoxification. Betalain is also known as a cancer protecting compound. Beets are a great addition to your diet especially when you are dealing free radicals that make you vulnerable to a myriad of diseases.
Take a moment and hear this, one cup of these wild blueberries contains a total of 13,427 antioxidants, vitamins A and C plus flavonoids s like anthocyanidin.that amounts to about 10 times of what the USDA recommends.
You can add raspberries to your diet. Raspberries contain an antioxidant called ellagic acid which according to a study by journal of nutrition enhances the ability of quercetin to kill cancerous cells.
Although they make look tiny, alfalfa sprouts are high in beta carotene, which is an antioxidant that protects one from lung cancer and can also help you maintain your skin,nails,hair,gums,glands and teeth. Alfalfa also provides for a good source of vitamin E which may aid in prevention against heart attacks, strokes and in also lowering your risks of death from cancer of the bladder.