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Sport Performance And Food
An athlete's diet should be similar to that which is recommended to the general population. Energy intake should divided into:
Athletes who exercise strenuously for more than 60 to 90 minutes daily may benefit from increasing the amount of energy they derive from carbohydrates to 65 to 70 per cent of energy intake. The World Health Organisation states that athletes can comfortably consume up to 35 per cent of energy from fat without compromising performance. Some sports nutritionists have recently suggested that extra fat in an athlete's diet may improve performance for endurance events - this is a new area of thought and is currently not widely recommended or practiced.
When you exercise, the glucose present in the blood is used as an energy source. The body converts the stored glycogen back into glucose in order to fuel the exercising muscle tissue and other body systems. Athletes can increase their stores of glycogen by regularly eating high carbohydrate foods. This is particularly important for athletes who exercise strenuously for more than 60 to 90 minutes daily.
If carbohydrate in the diet is restricted, a person's ability to exercise is compromised due to poor glycogen storage. This can result in a loss of protein tissue (and muscle), as well as urinary loss of essential ions, such as potassium.
Eating should be tailored to maximise the performance of the particular sport in which the individual is involved. The type and timing of food eaten are often specific for different sports and different individuals.
The pre-event meal should be easily digestible, high carbohydrate, low fat, low fibre and known not to cause gastrointestinal upset. Examples of suitable pre-competition snacks include fresh fruits and juices, muesli bars (without the chocolate coating), bread, toast, cereal with low fat or skim milk. Contrary to popular belief, consuming sugary foods or drinks just before a sporting event doesn't give your energy levels an immediate boost.
Eating during exercise
Eating after exercise
The amount of protein recommended for sporting people is only slightly higher than that recommended for the general public. For example:
Dietary surveys have found that most athletic groups comfortably reach and often exceed their protein requirements by consuming a high energy diet. Despite this, protein and amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are popular nutritional supplements.
Amino acids and supplements
Following exercise, you should drink 500ml of water for every 0.4 to 0.5kg of weight lost during exercise. Fluids are especially important in warm and humid conditions. Water is the preferred fluid in most situations. Sports drinks may be useful in ultra-endurance events (greater than 90 minutes) or when a quick recovery is necessary. If you prefer taking commercially prepared sports drinks, make sure that they are low in sodium - no more than about 30mmol (millimoles) per litre. Sodium can interfere with glucose getting into the cells and may exacerbate dehydration.
Pregnant women, children, adolescents and the elderly should pay particular attention to their fluid intake.
The use of salt tablets to combat muscle cramps is no longer advised, since it is lack of water - not lack of sodium - which affects the muscle tissue. Persistent muscle cramps might be due to zinc or magnesium deficiencies.
Things to remember
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