The Athlete

Take the Gold with Sports Nutrition

In athletics, natural talent goes a long way to determine who wins the race, throws the clutch touchdown, or kicks in the game-winning goal. Proper training and a dedication to practice also are a major factor in figuring out who will succeed, and who will come in second place.

However, many athletes forget that there is a third, and equally important, deciding factor at the finish line. No, it’s not what kind of shoes you wear. And it’s not what kind of shorts you put on. It’s simply what you had for breakfast.

That’s right. The food, and drink, that you put in your body before your games is an essential ingredient in how you perform on the field, track, or court. In fact, it’s your diet in general that fuels your body. So even if you have more innate skills than you know what to do with, you won’t be able to use them to full capacity unless you have the right nutrition.

Fill Up Frequently

One of the most important parts of sports nutrition is free. It’s clear. And it tastes best when it tastes like nothing. If you haven’t guessed yet, we’re talking about water. Water is considered a nutrient for good reason.

Water is essential for lubricating your joints, your bowels, your skin, and most every organ in your body. Down to your littlest cell, water is essential for each and every part of your body to function as intended.

When you exercise or play in a match, you lose water. You sweat it out. Some evaporates in your breath, too. However it leaves your body, you must replace it. So it’s essential to replenish your water before, during, and after exercise.

For extra strenuous workouts, those lasting more than 90 minutes, you may need other substances besides water. That’s because you sweat also contains electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, which need to be re-added to your body.

You’ll notice that that’s why most sports drinks have added electrolytes and carbohydrates to them. The salts in these sports drinks can keep you going for hours.

The carbs in these sports drinks provide a fresh source of energy for your exercise. While your body is losing water, it also is burning fuel—carbohydrates—which also need to be replaced. For the best way to refuel your system, look for sports drinks with 15 to 18 grams of carbs per every 8 ounces of liquid.

Fuel Up with the Right Foods

To keep your body’s “gas tank” constantly fueled up, make sure to include a hearty dose of carbohydrates in your daily menu. Experts recommend getting at least half or more of your daily calories from carbs.

Some examples of good carbs include:

  • Whole grain breads
  • Brown rice
  • Bran and other whole grain cereals
  • Oats
  • Pasta
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

If you follow these dietary guidelines, you’ll find yourself performing better at practice. To maximize your performance during a competition, though, you should make sure to add one additional carb meal to your menu.

This pre-competition meal should be loaded down with carbohydrates. Many runners stuff themselves with a bowl of pasta the night before an important race. Others turn to oatmeal. The particular choice of foods is yours. Just don’t forget to fill up with a lot of fluids, too.

Don’t Pass On Other Nutrients

Sport nutrition isn’t just about downing power drinks and carbo loading. You need to have a balanced diet to ensure that your muscles, joints, and bones get all of the nutrients needed for optimum performance.

After carbs, the next main nutrient that athletes think of when they think of sports nutrition is protein. Some body-building athletes even turn to engineered protein drinks to get the most protein possible. These for the most part are not necessary. A balanced diet that includes lean meats and low-fat dairy foods will get you enough protein.

You should also get most of your vitamins and minerals if you eat fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Only turn to vitamin water, vitamin drinks, and supplements if you are a strict vegetarian, cut out whole groups of food from your diet, or take in less than 1,800 calories per day.

Most people do not fall into these categories. Instead, they get the iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin Bs, and all their other essential nutrients from a balanced diet.

They also will get the maximum performance level—and maximum number of goals, touchdowns, first place finishes, etc.—from their body. Sports nutrition isn’t rocket science, after all. It just makes your body run as efficiently and as powerfully as a rocket.