Sports Nutrition: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best diet for an athlete?
diet should provide the right amount of energy, essential vitamins, minerals, and protein plus adequate water. No
single food or supplement can provide all the
daily requirements. A variety of foods are needed every day.
Do the nutritional needs of athletes differ from non-athletes?
athletes, sedentary individuals and people who
exercise for health and
fitness all need the same basic nutrients. Particular health
conditions may require additional supplementation. The intensity of
an individual sports or training program may cause some athletes to
have higher calorie and fluid requirements. Eating a variety of foods
to meet increased calorie needs helps to ensure that the athletes
diet contain appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein,
vitamins and minerals.
Are there certain dietary guidelines athletes should follow?
Health and nutrition professionals recommend that 55-60%
of the calories in our diet come from carbohydrate, no more than 30%
from fat and the remaining 10-15% from protein. The exact percentages
may vary slightly for some athletes based on their sport or training
program. These guidelines will promote health and serve as the basis
for a diet that will maximize performance.
How many calories do I need a day?
This depends on your age, body size, sport and training
program. For example,
a 250-pound weight lifter needs more calories than a
Exercise or training may increase calorie needs by as much as
1,000 to 1,500 calories a day a day.
The best way to determine if you are getting too few or
too many calories is to monitor your weight. Keeping within your ideal
competitive weight range means that you are getting the right amount
Which is better for replacing fluids - water or sports drinks?
on how muscular you are, 55-70% of your body weight
is water. Being "hydrated" means maintaining your body's fluid
When you sweat, you lose
water which must be replaced if you want to perform
your best. You need
to drink fluids before, during and after all
workouts and events.
you drink water or a sports drink is a matter of
choice. If your athletic event lasts for more than 90
minutes, you may benefit from the carbohydrates provided by sports
sports drink that
contains 15-18 grams of carbohydrate in every 8
ounces of fluid should
be used. Drinks with a higher carbohydrate content
will delay the
absorption of water and may cause dehydration,
cramps, nausea or diarrhea. There are a variety of sports drinks on
the market. Experiment with sports drinks during practice
instead of trying them for the first time on the day of an athletic
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are nutrients that
affect fluid balance in the body
and are necessary
for our nerves and muscles to function. Sodium and potassium are the two
electrolytes most often added to sports drinks.
Generally, electrolyte replacement is not needed during short bursts of exercise since sweat is
approximately 99% water and less than 1% electrolytes. Water, in combination
with a well-balanced diet, will restore normal fluid and electrolyte levels in
the body. Replacing electrolytes may be beneficial during continuous activity of
longer than 2 hours, especially in a hot environment.
What do muscles use for energy during exercise?
activities use a combination of fat and
carbohydrate as energy sources.
The intensity and duration of your workout directly affects
the type of fuel your body uses. For short-term
high-intensity activities like sprinting, athletes
rely mostly on carbohydrate for energy. During low-intensity
exercises like walking,
the body uses more fat for energy.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are sugar and
starches found in foods like breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, pasta, milk,
honey, syrups and table
are the preferred source of energy for your body.
Regardless of origin,
your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose
that your blood carries
to cells to be used for energy. Carbohydrates
provide 4 calories per
gram, while fat provides 9 calories per gram. Your
differentiate between glucose that comes from
starches or sugars.
Glucose from either source provides energy for