Nutrition and athletics

The do’s and don’ts of competition consumption

Athletes spend so much of their time focusing on how to get stronger, faster and better. Everyday after school you run, you lift, you shoot and you throw, but do you ever spend time thinking of other ways to improve your athletic performance?

Many Minnehaha athletes would probably admit that they don’t pay attention to what they eat while participating in a sport. But, nutrition plays a huge role in how you perform on game day. Without proper nutrition, athletes won’t be healthy. Without good health, they won’t play in the game. Without playing in the game, they won’t be able to perform with their highest ability.

As winter sports begin, athletes need to recognize the importance of good nutrition. Both males and females need good nutrition to perform best, no matter what sport they play. But although good nutrition is a universal need, the specific type of food needed may differ depending on sport and gender.

“For instance, a female golf player would require a lot fewer calories than a male hockey player doing high intensity training every day,” said health and physical-education teacher Julie Doran.

For most athletes, the typical night before meal, either a game or a match, should consist mainly of carbohydrates and non-fatty foods.

“A good snack to eat before an event, especially if it’s a long time between lunch and when the event occurs, would be something like fruit, bagels or carb-based energy bars,” said Doran. “Carbohydrates provide sustained energy and research has shown that carbs before or during endurance exercise can improve performance.”

But not all athletes focus on carbs for their main nutrition.

“For wrestling, we can choose to gain or lose weight to be able to compete in a certain weight class,” said sophomore wrestling captain Alastair Davis. “In the first few weeks of wrestling I eat mainly proteins and meats to gain muscle. Otherwise, because I am trying to lose some weight to fit into a weight class, I eat several small meals throughout the day that might include salads and low-calorie meals.”

To remain healthy, all nutrient intakes should be done within reason. A common misconception is that athletes need to use supplements to enhance performance. But most supplements end up having a negative impact on performance because of their side effects, which can include dehydration and digestive problems.

“Most athletes can reach peak performance just by eating a healthy well-balanced diet of nutrient dense foods,” said Doran.

Another common mistake made by athletes can be the choice to not eat a meal before their event. Skipping a meal can also result in dehydration and digestive problems with the added cons of lack of energy and fatigue during their event. These results then follow the continuous pattern of negatives and the effects are negative outcomes for all athletes.

“Nutrition plays a major role,” Yusuf Boyde, an elite trainer at the National Academy of Sports Medicine, wrote in an online discussion about sports nutrition on Sharecare.com. “If you have a poor diet, expect poor performance as a result.”

Training and practicing is undoubtedly huge to a team’s success. But for athletes, the difference between a good season, and a great season, could be nutrition. After all, you are what you eat.

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About Chris Schold

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