Whether you are a world class athlete or an exercise enthusiast, nutrition is fundamental to fitness. A varied, moderate, and balanced eating plan that supplies the right amount of nutrients and energy is essential for achieving and maintaining strength, flexibility, and endurance.
What is a balanced eating plan to fuel up for fitness?
The best eating plan for athletes does not differ much from a regular, balanced diet. It should include adequate fluids and plenty of low-fat, high carbohydrate foods that provide energy and replenish the fuel and fluids used during physical activity. Athletes should pay careful attention to their nutrition needs before, during, and after exercise.
Why are carbohydrates so important for athletes?
Carbohydrates are one of the main sources of energy for working muscles. That's why carbohydrate-containing foods should comprise at least 60 percent of the calories in an athlete's eating plan. Some foods high in carbohydrate and low in fat include breads, grains, pastas, vegetables, fruits, fruit juices, and juice drinks.
Muscles replenish stored carbohydrates most efficiently within the first two hours following exercise. Therefore, athletes should eat or drink 200 to 400 carbohydrate calories as soon as tolerable after exercise, and then again two hours later. Here are a few 200 to 400 calorie suggestions:
Two pieces of fruit such as a banana and orange or apple
12 oz. fruit juice cocktail, like cranberry, or fruit juice like grapefruit or orange
1 cup non-fat frozen or regular yogurt topped with 1 cup blueberries or raspberries
1 cup of grapes and 1 bagel
1 oz. of cereal with 1/2 cup skim milk and 1/2 cup sliced banana
1 cup low-fat vegetable soup with 1 pita pocket
1 bran, blueberry, or cranberry low-fat muffin with a cup of skim milk
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