Nutrition is important for athletes from the intramural level to the elite, and learning what to eat and when can help maximize performance. With spring sports starting, learning how to fuel your body and recover after games and practice can help give the competitive advantage you may be looking for.
Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are all necessary for a balanced diet. Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel and energy for our bodies, which need carbohydrates much like a car needs gas. When eating carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into the sugar glucose, and the glucose that is not being used is stored as glycogen. When blood sugar levels fall, the body release more glucose from the glycogen storage to bring blood sugar levels up.
Sources of carbohydrates to include in your diet include whole wheat bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes, squash, fresh and dried fruits, farro, pasta, oatmeal, sports drinks, graham crackers and pretzels. Carbohydrates should be the focus of pre-practice and game meals and snacks.
Protein is important to support muscle growth and recovery. Athletes often think protein supplements are necessary post workout. However, most people are able to get the protein they need through the food they eat. Some sources of protein to try and include are lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, beans, lentils, Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, eggs and nut butters.
While many people fear fat, healthy fats are important in absorbing fat soluble vitamins, lubricating joints, providing energy and keeping people feeling satisfied. Remember, not all fats are the same, and you want to focus on foods containing mono and polyunsaturated fats such as olives, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, nut butters, ground flaxseeds, avocado and fatty fish like salmon. As it gets closer to start time for a game or practice, keep the amount of fat to a minimum since fat takes longer to digest.
Always remember that nutrition is not one size fits all. Recommendations vary based on activity level, sport played, age and weight.
Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian with a private practice on Long Island. Her practice, LNZ Nutrition, LLC specializes in sports nutrition, weight management and food allergies. Linzy has worked with intramural to elite athletes to help them maximize their performance through diet. Follow her blog https://lnznutrition.com/blog-media and Instagram page LNZnutrition for more nutrition tips and product finds, and visit her website LNZnutrition.com to learn more about her and her services.