Athletes should eat quality food and follow proper nutritional guidelines before and after sport and exercise to develop a fuel-efficient and lean body. In addition, it is equally important for athletes to consume the proper amount of fluids in order to stay hydrated and achieve optimum performance. Learn about proper nutrition tips and the importance of hydration when it comes to playing sports.
Importance of Hydration
General – Importance of Hydration
Although the amount of fluids you should drink depends on a variety of factors including age, weight and amount of exercise, a good rule of thumb is to drink enough total fluids that it is necessary to urinate every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day.
If you urinate less than every 2 to 3 hours, it is a sign of dehydration. Athletes who are dehydrated may experience a drop in energy, muscles cramps and will not feel well in general. Most athletes do not drink enough fluids, even though they think they do. At least half of the fluids you consume throughout the day should be water, but milk, juice, soda, coffee and tea all count toward total daily intake. Mostly water, milk and 100 percent juice is ideal. Sports drinks, formulated to be consumed during workouts, should only be consumed while exercising. Sports drinks differ from energy drinks, which should not be consumed.
If you consume too much fluid, you may become overhydrated. Drinking too many fluids can dilute the bloodstream and cause low sodium concentrations in the blood, which can lead to muscle cramps, nausea, headaches and even life threatening situations, in rare cases. If you are urinating every 30 minutes, you may be overhydrated.
During exercise, athletes should hydrate when they “feel thirsty.” On average, most athletes need 24 to 48 ounces of fluid per hour, although this varies dramatically from sport to sport and even within a sport, depending on the individual’s size, gender, muscle mass and genetics.
In addition, for every pound you lose during a workout, you should drink 16 to 24 ounces after your workout to start rehydrating. For individuals who are significantly dehydrated, it can take up to 72 hours before they’re fully rehydrated. This makes it extremely important to stay well hydrated while working out.
Athletes should also eat the proper foods to maintain optimum performance.
General – Nutrition Tips
To achieve optimum performance, athletes must follow proper nutritional guidelines before and after sport and exercise. Eating quality food helps you develop a more fuel-efficient and lean body.
First and foremost, you need to make sure you are getting enough total calories and energy on a daily basis. Whether you are a youth or adult athlete, skipping meals or snacks is not recommended, as it will cause you to run out of energy while exercising. It is advised that every athlete eat a least three healthy meals per day on top of one to four healthy snacks per day, depending on how much and how often you exercise.
A healthy meal should contain a high amount of carbohydrates and protein and a small amount of healthy fats. Consuming enough carbohydrates is extremely important in any type of sport, as they are the most important source of energy. Athletes that eat enough total daily calories may run out of energy during workouts due to not consuming enough carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be found in bread and pasta, but also in greens, fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Variety is best when it comes to eating carbohydrates or any type of food.
Protein is also very important for athletes to consume, as it helps rebuild muscles and recover after working out. Protein comes in many forms, such as meat (beef, poultry, pork, etc.) as well as fish, eggs, nuts, beans, dairy products and soy products. It is important to eat a variety of protein sources in order to change the profile of amino acids you consume everyday.
Although fats are an important part of a healthy diet, they should be eaten in small quantities. Healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and fish, are recommended.
Examples of a healthy meal that can be consumed before or after a workout may include:
- Turkey sandwich, apple and yogurt
- Two eggs, toast with peanut butter and a banana
- Chocolate milk (has a natural combination of carbohydrates and proteins that are ideal for athletes)
Ultimately, you should determine what combination of foods tastes best to you and settles well in your stomach when deciding what to eat before or after sport or exercise. In addition, while supplements are a popular topic, it is best not to take them and instead consume your daily intake of vitamins and minerals by focusing on whole foods.
Drinking enough fluids is also very important for athletes participating in sports.