Special and Healthy Diet for Athletes

The keys to physical fitness are exercise, motivation, and good nutrition. Optimal nutrition is a basic training component necessary for the development and maintenance of top physical performance. The principles of sound nutrition apply to everyone, but can give the athlete the competitive edge.

Body fat is essentially stored energy. In order for fats to be efficiently used as fuel, they need to be metabolized in the presence of oxygen. This makes them less efficient than glycogen (a more readily available energy source) and at less of an energy expense to the body. Excess fat also represents extra weight that an athlete must carry during practice and competition.

It is important to prepare for endurance events by compensating for fluid losses BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER the workout. The following are some guidelines that are recommended by the American Dietetic Association and the American College of Sports Medicine:

Plain water, iced tea, sugar-free sodas, and fruit and vegetable juices are all appropriate choices. In general, cool drinks are absorbed more quickly than warm or room temperature drinks. In addition, cool drinks are recommended during warm weather because they can help lower body temperature.

Role of carbohydrate in Athlete's Diet

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for exercise. The athlete's extra caloric needs are best met through increasing the amount of complex carbohydrates in the diet. At least 55% of the athlete's calories should come from carbohydrate sources. After digestion, carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. The amount stored equals about 1,800 calories for a 150 pound male; the trained, conditioned, and well nourished athlete will store more.

Under conditions of short term, high intensity exercise, carbohydrate is used almost exclusively as the fuel source. During prolonged exercise the greatest utilization of carbohydrates occur during the first 4 to 5 minutes. As exercise continues, the fuel source shifts to a progressively greater amount of fat.


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