Good nutrition is a vital part of sports performance and everyday functioning. Ensuring that you are eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining proper hydration can vastly improve your performance.
Food is broken down into 3 main categories of macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Carbohydrates are fuel for your muscles, and are your main source of energy. Not only do they fuel your muscles, but they assist in digestion, help to absorb water and nutrients, maintain blood sugar, and help to control fat and cholesterol levels. Low levels of carbs lead to early fatigue during exercise, mental fatigue and breakdown of muscle. 50-65% of your daily intake should be from carbohydrates. There are two types of carbs: simple and complex. Simple sugars can be found in fruit and sweets, and should be consumed sparingly. Complex carbs can be found in grains, legumes, oats and vegetables. A high-carbohydrate meal about 90-120 minutes prior to exercise can improve performance. Carbs should be maintained from the time of the meal until activity by slowly ingesting a sports beverage (Gatorade, etc) or snacking on a low-fiber, starchy food (saltine crackers are great!) every 15 minutes. During exercise a small amount of a sports beverage should be consumed every 10-20 minutes to maintain carb levels. Following activity, carbohydrates should be consumed immediately (within 30 min) to replenish glycogen stores.
Protein not only builds muscle, but it also delivers essential amino acids (building blocks for muscle), aids in injury repair, helps maintain existing tissue, makes enzymes, antibodies and hormones, balances body fluid levels, transports vitamins and minerals and provides energy when carbohydrates are depleted. Protein sources include animal sources (meat, eggs, dairy), soy, rice, some plant sources, etc. 15-20% of total intake should come from protein. The amount of protein consumed prior to exercise should be limited, however a small amount post-exercise may help with recovery.
Fat is a highly concentrated source of energy, and is essential for the delivery of certain fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. Fats also provide energy and muscular fuel, mainly for low intensity activities. In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids may help in reducing muscle and joint inflammation. Unsaturated fats (plant sources) are more desirable than saturated fats (animal sources) which should be minimized when possible. No more than 30% of total intake is recommended for most people.
A great way to keep track of your macronutrients and fluid intake is using an app such as MyFitnessPal.
If you have specific nutrition questions or concerns or would like to know more about nutrition for performance, contact Megan.
We are very lucky to have Wendy Caamano, a registered dietitian, working with our athletics teams. If you have any nutrition or hydration questions or concerns you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206 963 3203. Visit her website at wendycaamanonutrition.com.
Nutrition Resources From Wendy Caamano, RD