Young boys and girls everywhere dream of athletic glory whether it is at the Olympics or as a professional athlete. The reality of the dream is years of hard work and determination. Developing athletic skill, whether as an amateur or on the elite scale, requires consistent practice and proper...
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Young boys and girls everywhere dream of athletic glory whether it is at the Olympics or as a professional athlete. The reality of the dream is years of hard work and determination. Developing athletic skill, whether as an amateur or on the elite scale, requires consistent practice and proper nutrition.
Good sports nutrition involves a few basic elements and commons sense. Banned substances like anabolic steroids are unnecessary for the athlete whether he be a weekend wannabe or an elite performer. Steroids negative effects outweigh any potential benefits.
Elements of good sports nutrition
Water comprises 60% of our body and is involved in almost every bodily function. During exercise water is lost through sweat. It is important to drink water or sports drinks before, during, and after your exercise routine. Drink fluids even if you are not thirsty as thirst is not a good indicator of need. By the time you sense you are thirsty you are already behind on meeting your body's needs. Water is all you need for workouts shorter than 60 minutes. For longer and repeated sessions a sports drink with electrolytes and carbohydrates may be beneficial.
60% to 70% of the athlete's calories should come from carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, cereals, bread and honey are good dietary sources of carbohydrates. The body converts these sugars and starches into glucose which the muscles use for energy. A typical diet should provide enough carbs for normal activities but additional carbs from sports bars or gels may be warranted prior to a major expenditure of energy like in a race or weightlifting competition.
12% to 15% of the athlete's calories should come from protein. Good protein sources are lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and nuts. Intense, strength building activities over an extended period of time may necessitate additional protein intake. Whey protein drinks are popular sources of protein for heavy athletic training but should be used carefully as they can result in fat gain if your level of physical activity is not high enough.
20% to 30% of the athlete's calories should come from fats. Fats are available from animal sources like meat and dairy products or plant sources like vegetable oil. While the body requires limited amounts of fat to operate effectively, too much fat can cause weight gain and other health problems like high cholesterol.
Vitamins and Minerals
Most vitamin and mineral needs are met by a balanced diet. Vegetarians, those consuming less than 1800 calories a day or those who avoid entire food groups may benefit from a good multivitamin but do not take more than the recommended dosage.
Iron gives the muscles oxygen. If your iron level is low you will tire easily. Iron is easily obtained from animal products, fortified breads and cereals, and green leafy vegetables. Use supplements with care.
Too little calcium can lead to fractures and osteoporosis. Dairy products, collard greens, okra, and sardines are good dietary sources.
It is important to watch your total caloric intake. How many calories you need will depend on your activity level, body size and age. Check your weight from time to time to determine if you are getting too many or too few calories.
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