Nutrition & Athletic Performance: All you need to know

Eating a healthy balanced diet accompanied by regular exercise is essential in maintaining physical and mental health and well-being. Nutrition can help enhance athletic performance. An active lifestyle and exercise routine, along with eating well, is the best way to stay healthy.

Eating a good diet can help provide the energy you need to finish a race, or just enjoy a casual sport or activity.

You are more likely to be tired and perform poorly during sports when you do not get enough:

  • Calories

  • Carbohydrates

  • Fluids

  • Iron, vitamins, and other minerals

  • Protein

The ideal diet for an athlete is not very different from the diet recommended for any healthy person.

However, the amount of each food group you need will depend on:

  • The type of sport

  • The amount of training you do

  • The amount of time you spend doing the activity or exercise

Carbohydrates are needed to provide energy during exercise. Carbohydrates are stored mostly in the muscles and liver. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as pasta, bagels, whole grain breads, and rice. They provide energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These foods are low in fat. A little more than half of your calories should come from carbohydrates. You need to eat carbohydrates before you exercise if you will be exercising for more than 1 hour.

Protein contributes minimally to energy needs for the body. Dietary protein is digested into amino acids, which are used as the building blocks for the different tissues, enzymes, and hormones that the body needs to function. It is important for muscle building and repair that occurs after exercise.

Water is the most important, yet overlooked, nutrient for athletes. Water and fluids are essential to keep the body hydrated and at the right temperature. Your body can lose several liters of sweat in an hour of vigorous exercise. Clear urine is a good sign that you have fully rehydrated.

The bottom line:

Carbohydrates, protein, water and fluids are an important part of an athlete’s diet, as they can keep the body hydrated, support muscle growth as well as provide energy!

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