Eating for Optimum Performance

Eating for Optimum Performance

September 01, 2015

When an athlete is involved in high intensity training and competition, the types of foods he or she consumes is very important. If an individual competes and trains at an intense level (above 60% of maximum capacity) the type of food to fuel the activity is important. Carbohydrates, more specifically complex carbohydrates, are critical fuel for performance when participating in sports that involve any type of endurance.

When foods high in carbohydrates are consumed, energy for muscular activity is stored in the muscles themselves. This stored energy will minimize fatigue and allow an athlete to perform longer and longer.

The other two major components of foods are fats and protein. They are critical to certain functions but serve minimal function as fuel for high intensity activity. Fats are slowly digested and merely “sit in your stomach” after consumption. This causes blood to flow to the digestive organs, therefore diverting oxygen rich blood from the working muscles. This results in an athlete tiring more quickly and not being able to sustain as intense an effort. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are quickly digested and actually may enhance performance. Protein needs are somewhat higher for athletes but needs can be met through a balanced diet. Supplements and protein powders are not necessary and usually expensive.

Also, the need for water far exceeds the need for any other nutrient. Therefore, athletes are advised to drink plenty of water before, during, and after training and competition. Below is a list of foods that can help an athlete perform more efficiently. There is also a list of foods that may slow you down, especially if consumed less than 4 hours prior to competition or practice.
Foods to Choose
Foods to Avoid
Whole grain breads and cereals
Pasta, rice, potatoes
Steamed and raw vegetables
Fruit and fruit juices
Skim milk, low fat cheese, low fat yogurt
Soy milk and other soy foods
White meat chicken
Lean red meat
Fish, shellfish
Most energy bars
Butter, margarine, mayonnaise
Cookies, cakes
Candy bars
Hamburgers, hot dogs
Fatty red meat, processed meat
Tacos, fried chicken
French fries, onion rings
Danishes, doughnuts
Potato and tortilla chips

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Sports Nutrition