Eating for Sports

Eating is different for star athletes as it is for not-so-active people. Remember when Michael Phelps revealed that he chows down enormous amounts of food during each meal. If you did not here about it, here’s an example from a Wall Street Journal Article published last August 13, 2008:

Breakfast: Three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. Two cups of coffee. One five-egg omelet. One bowl of grits. Three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar. Three chocolate-chip pancakes.

Lunch: One pound of enriched pasta. Two large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo on white bread. Energy drinks packing 1,000 calories.

Dinner: One pound of pasta. An entire pizza. More energy drinks.

Boys and gals, all of these add up to 12,000 calories. Phelps consumes this much everyday. But then again, due to his rigorous training, he simply burns them all up.

For budding athletes though, it’s more of getting the right foods – in the right amounts – into your plate.

Teen athlete diet

Teen athletes the extra calories to fuel their performance. But, since they are still developing, teen athletes need extra calories to fuel their growth too.

Depending on the activity level that their sport demands, teens need about 2,000 – 5,000 calories per day to meet their needs.

Risks of not getting enough calories

If you lack the necessary fuel to get you going, your body will less likely reach its optimum performance level. You won’t be able to run as fast, or become as strong as you could. Insufficient calories may result in weight loss, and even muscle breakdown. Extreme calorie deficit may result in health and growth problems for young athletes.

Some sports that that focus on weight such as wrestling and gymnastics, might make you feel the need to lose weight. But experts advise against dieting if you are an athlete. If your coach or teacher tells you to go on a diet. Consult a doctor or a dietitian first. If a medical professional agrees to it, that’s the only time you should do it. You can ask your doctor to develop a diet plan for you, so you can lose weight, and still get the right amount of nutrients you need to be at your best.

Foods

To get the all the nutrients you need, include a huge a variety of foods for every meal.

Minerals for bones and muscles

Bones and muscles are an athlete’s arsenal. Therefore, they should be well-supplied with nutrients. Calcium strengthens the bones. Iron carries oxygen to the muscles. Good sources of iron are lean meats, iron-fortified cereals, and green, leafy veggies. To meet your calcium needs, go for dairy foods such s yogurt, low-fat milk, and cheese.

Vitamins for overall good health

Vitamins help in almost everything, from boosting energy levels and stamina, reducing fatigue, repairing damaged tissues, ensuring proper growth, to reducing risks of developing serious illnesses.

Protein

Protein is the building block of bones, cartilage, muscles, skin, and blood. It is used in building and repairing tissues. Good sources of protein include fish, eggs, soy, and tofu.

Carbs

Carbs are a source of energy. Glucose is carbs that is absorbed into the bloodstream and is distributed to cells and muscles for immediate use. If not used, carbs, in the form of glycogen, will be stored as an energy reserve in the liver and muscles. Good sources of carbs are wholes wheats, milk, beans, fruits and veggies.

Fats

Fats, the good ones, are important nutrients. Essential fatty acids are necessary for growth, vitamin absorption and regulating bodily functions. When the body has a carb deficit, it will burn protein tissue in the muscles. This is what fats prevent from happening by supplying long-lasting energy. Go for unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils.

What you should avoid

Supplements

Do not resort to using supplements that claim to increase muscle mass. Supplements like steroids can cause serious health problems like testicular shrinkage and mental health problems, including depression and mood swings.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a diuretic. Though it is proven to cause dehydration, it is best to limit your caffeine intake.

Not enough water

Just like a vehicle, you can overheat and feel worn out when you sweat during your game. As there is no single formula for how much water is needed, experts suggest drinking before and after workouts, and every 15-20 minutes throughout your session.

Game day

So what is a young athlete supposed to eat on game day? Experts suggest Eating a protein-carb meal, like turkey sandwiches or pasta. Eat your meal 2-4 hours before your game.

As for snacks, experts recommend eating low-fiber fruits or veggies, or a low-fat yogurt 2 hours before the game.