Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sports Nutrition 1

Are you or your kids playing some sports this coming school year?  Will they be playing football, playing basketball or soccer?  Sports require not only skill but fuel – healthy nutrition to have energy for the game.  There is a lot of information on nutrition but what is reliable and what isn’t?  How important is just drinking enough water to performance?  What about salt and other electrolytes?  What should student athletes eat before games?  How can a student athlete prevent losing weight during the sports season?  I’ve known student athletes that struggle to maintain their weight during the sports season.  This week I was advising a coach on nutrition for students playing football but most of the same advice applies to students playing basketball or soccer.  In the next few weeks we will focus on sports nutrition.  

What are some nutrition goals student athletes should focus on? 

1.       Stay hydrated – so much fluid is lost in workouts and during games- especially for those training or playing in hot weather.  Many coaches have the students weigh themselves before and after practice sessions.  Why?  This is a way to tell how much water is lost in sweat at the practice.  For each pound of weight lost, the student needs to replace from 16-24 ounces of fluid or about 2-3 cups of fluid. (Note:  A gulp of water is bout 1-2 fl. ounces)
Not just after practice or a game, but an athlete wants to be fully hydrated before practice and before games.  A trainer studied “college football players preparing for a major NFL scouting event, she found that 98% of them were dehydrated at the beginning of their morning evaluation”.  Why would this be concerning to a coach?   This trainer notes, “Your ability to perform athletically can decline with a very small amount of dehydration… Just losing 2% of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25%”.  What are some recommendations on how much water a person should drink before, during and after they workout? A good article to review is Hydration for Athletes which outlines the hydration recommendations of the American Council on Exercise.  But everyone is different and how much fluid is needed depends on the age of the athlete, how much an athlete sweats, how hot it is, and how much and how long one is exercising.  Remember to hydrate before, during and after exercise. 
And think chilled.  WebMD notes that chilled fluids are more easily absorbed and can help you cool your body.  
Drink water before, during and after exercise
2.       Salt – electrolytes like sodium, chloride and potassium are lost when sweating.  Some foods can help replenish electrolytes and have a high-water content to aid in hydration such as fruits (watermelon, oranges), and vegetables.  To help replace electrolytes with food, enjoy soup, pretzels, salted nuts, have some beef jerky, add some pickles to your burger or sandwich, enjoy some cheese and crackers, add mustard to your hot dog, choose marinara sauce on your spaghetti, have some salsa and chips.  (Tomato soup, marinara sauce, salsa – all good ways to replace potassium.)   Many experts say those going to the gym for a 45 minute workout will only need water to rehydrate.  But those exercising in hot weather or at a high intensity for an hour or more, may find a sports drink helpful or want to eat some of the foods noted above to replace lost electrolytes.  

3.       Carbs, carbs, carbs – too often people are cutting back on carbs.  Not a good idea for the student athlete. Carbs are what fuels the body and athletes need fuel.  WebMD has a great article, 5 Nutrition Tips for Athletes.  Their 1st recommendation: “Load up on Carbohydrates” as “Carbs are an athlete’s main fuel.”  What carbs to focus on to fuel practice or the big game?  Focus on starches like bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, and vegetables like potatoes.  Fruits can provide quick energy sources.    Healthy carb choices would include any General Mills cereal as all are whole grain, whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers like Triscuits, Wheat Thins, or whole grain chips like Sun Chips.  Try adding some whole grain pasta to your regular pasta when making spaghetti. 

If you know a student involved in some athletics, share this information with them.  Share this information with someone coaching student athletes.  Review some of the articles cited in this blog as all provide good and reliable information on nutrition and athletic performance.  For students playing football see some great nutrition tips at Nutrition For the Football Student Athlete written by sports registered dietitians.  
Fuel up for sports with carbs

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