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Athletes who want a winning edge need the right nutrition. When you give your body the right fuel by drinking enough water and eating a balanced diet, you will make the most of your athletic talents and gain more strength, power, and endurance when you train.
This article contains some general sports nutrition guidelines.
To achieve top performance, your diet should be based on a variety of factors including your age, weight, physical condition, and the type of exercise you are doing. Consult your doctor for individualized sports nutrition advice. Water is the most important nutrient for athletes.
Because your body cannot make or store water, you must replace the water that you lose in your urine and sweat. Everyone should drink at least two quarts 64 oz. To stay hydrated and avoid overheating, drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after sports or exercise. When you work out or compete, especially in hot weather, try to replace the amount of water you lose in sweat by drinking the same amount of fluid.
Drinking cool water is the best way to keep hydrated during workouts or events that last an hour or less. Because thirst is not a reliable way to tell if you need water, be sure to drink even if you are not thirsty.
Also, if you stop drinking water as soon as your thirst is satisfied, you will get only about half the amount you really need. A balanced diet is another key to sports nutrition.
Eating the right combination of fuel calories from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats will give you energy for top performance. Carbohydrates are found in many foods, including:. Your body converts the sugars and starches in carbohydrates into energy glucose or stores it in your liver and muscle tissues glycogen. This gives you endurance and power for high-intensity, short-duration activities. If your body runs out of carbohydrate fuel during exercise it will burn fat and protein for energy—causing your performance level to drop.
This may happen if you start exercising without enough stored muscle glycogen or if you exercise intensely for longer than an hour without eating more carbohydrates. It may also happen if you do multiple repetitions of high-intensity, short-duration exercises or if you participate in multiple events or training sessions in a single day.
The following tips will help you maintain carbohydrate fuel so that you can stay energized and perform at your best:. Proteins are found in many foods, including:. Proteins give your body the power to build new tissues and fluids among other functions. Your body cannot store extra protein so it burns it for energy or converts it to fat. The amount of protein you need depends, in part, on your:. Saturated fats come from animal-based foods, such as meats, eggs, milk, and cheese.
Unsaturated fats are found in vegetable products such as corn oil. Your body needs small amounts of fat for certain critical functions and as an alternative energy source to glucose. Eating too much fat, however, is associated with heart disease, some cancers, and other major health problems. Also, if you are eating too much fat, it probably means that you are not eating enough carbohydrates. How your body uses fat for energy depends on the intensity and duration of exercise.
For example, when you rest or exercise at low to moderate intensity, fat is the primary fuel source. As you increase the intensity of your exercise your body uses more carbohydrates for fuel. If your body uses up its glycogen supply and you continue exercising you will burn fat for energy, decreasing the intensity of your exercise. What you eat several days before an endurance activity affects performance. The food you eat on the morning of a sports competition can ward off hunger, keep blood sugar levels adequate, and aid hydration. Try to avoid eating high-protein or high-fat foods on the day of an event.
To avoid running out of carbohydrates for energy, some endurance athletes—including long-distance runners, swimmers, and bicyclists—load their muscles with glycogen. To do this, they eat extra carbohydrates and exercise to energy depletion several days before an event. To "carbohydrate load" before an event:. Some endurance athletes believe that following this carbohydrate-loading regimen will ensure that muscles loaded with unused glycogen will be available to work for longer periods of time during competition.
You should always consult with your doctor for advice before trying a carbohydrate-loading diet. AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website. Hydration Water is the most important nutrient for athletes.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise. Carbohydrates are found in many foods, including: Fruits Vegetables Pasta Bread Cereal Rice Your body converts the sugars and starches in carbohydrates into energy glucose or stores it in your liver and muscle tissues glycogen.
Eating fruit, or another food high in carbohydrates, will help you maintain energy during competition. Good sources of protein include meat, cheese, eggs, and nuts.
To perform at your highest level, follow these general nutrition guidelines before an event: Eat a meal high in carbohydrates. Eat solid foods 3 to 4 hours before an event. Drink liquids 2 to 3 hours before an event. Choose easily digestible foods, rather than fried or high-fat foods. Avoid sugary foods and drinks within one hour of the event. Drink enough fluids to ensure hydration. A good guideline to follow is: Drink 20 oz. Replenishing fluids lost to sweat is the primary concern during an athletic event.
Drink 3 to 6 ounces of water or diluted sports drink every 10 to 20 minutes throughout competition. Carbohydrate Loading To avoid running out of carbohydrates for energy, some endurance athletes—including long-distance runners, swimmers, and bicyclists—load their muscles with glycogen. To "carbohydrate load" before an event: First, exercise to muscle fatigue. Your workout must be identical to the upcoming event to deplete the right muscles.
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