Nutrition proves worth in sport

A healthy pre- and post-game diet is an essential for athletes who are conscientious of their diets to optimize performance. | Photo by Beth Spain

By Hannah Lutz

Becoming a good athlete does not come from practice only; athletes must focus on nutrition year-round.

“During the season athletes are busy and it is hard for their bodies to maintain strength,” said Adam Darby, former professional baseball player for the Pensacola Pelicans. “The best way to keep the body strong is to focus on eating healthy and getting the right vitamins and minerals.”

Athletes need to have good eating habits to achieve optimal performance.

“Depending on the type of activity being played, eating correctly helps the body perform to the max,” said Dr. Julie Powell, assistant professor of physical education, wellness and sport.

Athletes will gain the most from the amount of carbohydrates stored in the body.

Another body fuel is fat. The use of fat as a fuel depends on the duration of the exercise and even the condition of the athlete. Protein is also important for building muscle. Among these foods, water is a critical nutrient for athletes. Without water, dehydration can set in and cause muscle-cramping and fatigue.

Focusing on pre-game and post-game meals is key for optimal performance.
A pre-game meal should be eaten three to four hours before the event. This allows the best digestion and energy supply.

The meal should consist of plenty of complex carbohydrates such as breads, cold cereal, pasta, fruits and vegetables. It is important to avoid caffeine and to keep meals that are high in fats to a minimum.

The post-game meal should be eaten within 30 minutes and contain a mixture of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Consuming the post-game meal within the 30-minute time frame is difficult for athletes, since they often experience nausea or lack of hunger.

Ways to fix this nausea is by drinking liquids that contain supplements of protein.

5 WAYS TO STAY FOCUSED ON A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

1. Do not skip meals, specifically breakfast. The term “breakfast” means “breaking our fast.” The body has gone all night without anything to eat. People need to break the fasting period.

2. Balance caloric intake by eating five to six small meals throughout the day.

3. Monitor eating habits by keeping up with how many calories and nutrients are being eaten.

4. Get a variety of foods, specifically produce.

5. Concentrate on eating complex carbohydrates, such as starches, grains and fibers.

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