Nutrition & Health

Panthers Guide to Healthy Athletes

Nutrition News Our Athletes Can Use

Welcome Panthers athletes and families. This information we hope will be one of many pieces of valuable information to provide our athletes with nutrition news to help each of you perform at peak performance as you begin to take care of your bodies. DID YOU KNOW? There’s a lot more to eating for sports than “chowing down” on carbs or chugging sports drinks. The good news is that eating to reach your peak performance level DOES NOT require a special diet or supplements. It’s all about working the right foods into your fitness plan in the right amounts. Here are some basics. EAT A VARIETY OF FOODS! You may have heard about “carb loading before a game. But when it comes to powering your game for the long haul, it’s a bad idea to focus on only one type of food. CARBOHYDRATES are an important source of fuel, but they’re only one of many foods an athlete needs. It also takes vitamins, minerals, protein, and fats to stay in shape for peak performance. MUSCULAR MINERALS AND VITAL VITAMINS! Calcium helps build the strong bones that athletes depend on, and iron caries oxygen to muscles.

To get the iron you need, eat lean red meats (meats with NOT a lot of fat on them) grains that are fortified with iron; and green leafy vegetables. Calcium – a must tor protecting against stress fractures is found in dairy foods such as low-fat milk, low-fat cheese and low-fat yogurt. In addition to calcium and iron, your body needs other vitamins and minerals that can only be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide the vitamins and mineral the body needs for good health and sports performance. PROTEIN POWER! Athletes need SLIGHTLY more protein than less-active athletes, and can get the required protein your body needs through regular eating (Not “Pigging Out”). It is a MYTH that athletes need a huge daily intake of protein to build large strong muscle. Muscle growth comes from regular training and hard work – not popping a pill. Taking in too much protein can harm the body, causing dehydration, calcium loss and even kidney problems. CARB CHARGE! Carbohydrates provide athletes with an excellent source of fuel. Cutting back on carbs or following a low-carb diet ins not a good idea because restricting carbohydrates can cause a person to feel tired and worn out which affects your performance.

Choose whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, and starches vegetables liked corn and peas) more often than processed foods like white rice and white bread. Whole grains provide both the energy athletes need to perform and other nutrients and fiber they need to be healthy. Sugary carbs such as candy bars and soda contain do not contain ANY nutrients an athlete needs and eating candy and other sugary snacks just before practice or competition, can give athletes a quick burst of energy and then leave them to “crash” or run out of energy before they have finished working out. FAT FUELS! Everyone needs a certain amount of fat each day, and this is particularly true for athletes. That’s because active muscles quickly burn through carbs and need fats for long-lasting energy. Like carbs, not all fats are created equal. Athletes must concentrate on healthier fats, such as unsaturated fats (fats that are not solid at room temperature) found in most vegetable oils. Choosing when to eat fats is also important for athletes. Fatty foods can slow down digestion and the athlete. Avoid eating these foods several hours before and after training and competing. DITCH DEHYDRATION! Water is just as important to unlocking your game power as food. When you sweat during exercise, it’s easy to become overheated, headachy, and worn out-ESPECIALLY IN HOT OR HUMID WEATHER.

There is no magic formula for how much water to drink. Experts recommend that athletes drink before and after exercises and every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. In general, most athletes need 1-2 cups prior to exercise and ½ to 1 cup every 15 to 20 minutes throughout exercise. DO NOT wait until you feel thirsty, because thirst is a sign that your body has needed liquids for a while. Don’t force your body to take in more liquid than you need because it is hard to run when there’s a lot of water “sloshing” around in your stomach. Sports drinks should never take the place of water. They are no better for you than water unless you are exercising longer than 90 minutes or in really hot weather. Then the additional carbohydrates and electrolytes in sports drinks will aid in replenishing your body with lost fluids. AVOID drinking carbonated drinks or juice because they can give you a stomach ache while competing. CAFFEINE! Drinks that contain caffeine, including some soft drinks, tea, and coffee may contribute to dehydration. Too much caffeine can leave an athlete feeling anxious or jittery.

It can also cause trouble sleeping. All of these factors can drag down an athlete’s sports performance. GAME DAY EATS! Most of your body’s energy will come from the foods you have eaten over the past several days. But you can boost your performance even more by paying attention to the food you eat on game day. Strive for a game day diet rich in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat. WHAT TO EAT AND WHEN!!! Eat a meal 2 to 4 hours before the game or event: combine a serving of low fiber fruit or vegetable (such as juice, plums, melons, cherries, or peaches) with a protein and carbohydrate meal (like turkey or chicken sandwich, cereal and low-fat milk, or chicken noodle soup and low-fat yogurt). Eat a snack less than 2 hours before the game: If you haven’t had time to have a pre-game meal, be sure to have a light snack such as crackers, a bagel, or low-fat yogurt. It is a good idea to avoid eating anything for the hour before you compete or have practice because digestion requires energy- energy you want to use to win!! Also eating too much too soon before any kind of activity can leave food in the stomach making you feel full, bloated, crampy, and sick. Everyone is different, so get to know what works best for you. You may want to experiment with meal timing and how much to eat on practice days so that you are better prepared for competition.

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