Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nutrition for the Athlete

True or False?

Consuming extra protein is necessary to build muscle mass. Contrary to claims of some protein supplement companies, consuming extra protein does nothing to bulk up muscle unless you are also doing significant weight training at the same time. Even then the increased requirement can easily come from food. A potential problem with supplements is the body has to work overtime to get rid of excess protein, and can become distressed as a result.

Eating immediately after a workout will improve recovery. Endurance athletes need to take in carbohydrates immediately after a workout to replace glycogen stores, and a small amount of protein with the drink enhances the effect. Drinking low-fat chocolate milk or a carbohydrate drink, like Gatorade, is better for the body, as they replace glycogen stores lost during exercise. Protein is not going to help build muscle, so strength athletes do not need to eat immediately following their workout.

Eating carbohydrates makes you fat. Cutting carbs from your diet may have short-term weight loss benefits due to water loss from a decrease in carbohydrate stores, but eating carbs in moderation does not directly lead to weight gain. The body uses carbs for energy, and going too long without them can cause lethargy.

Drink eight, 8-oz. glasses of water per day. You should replace water lost through breathing, excrement and sweating each day – but that doesn’t necessarily total 64 ounces of water. It’s hard to measure the exact amount of water you have consumed daily in food and drink, but if your urine is pale yellow, you’re doing a good job. If it’s a darker yellow, drink more H2O.

Are nutrition needs of an athlete different?
It may surprise you to learn that in many ways, your nutritional requirements aren't much different from a student who has chosen to be less active. You both have the same needs for a variety of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, about the same requirements for fat, and surprisingly, your need for protein is only slightly higher as an athlete than that of the non-athlete. One important nutritional difference you have as an athlete is that carbohydrate needs are generally much higher. "Carbs" are the body's most efficient energy source. Without adequate carbohydrate sources in the diet, an athlete will "hit the wall" very quickly. If your sport or physical activity patterns require a more calories, you can eat more from all the food groups, and may even have extra room for foods usually thought of as empty calorie like desserts, soda, higher sugar granola bars.

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