Athletes have a few special considerations for nutritional support and proper fuel is often the difference between an enjoyable activity and complete suffering!
Hydration. Water is the best and most likely only needed source of hydration for most athletes. Unless you are an endurance athlete and exercising for over 90 minutes, it is unlikely you need to add any electrolytes or consume any sports drinks. Water is the best source, so drink up! Ideally, all of us should consume 1/2 of our body weight in ounces of water on a daily basis. This consumption can include water from fruits and vegetables as well. For athletes, it is important to be properly hydrated before an event and consume about 1/2 cup of water every 30 minutes of exercise. It is best to drink 12 ounces of water an hour prior to starting an activity to ensure proper hydration. Remember, any sugar drinks, including fruit juices will not replenish hydration, so just consume water!
Carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates such as bananas ( with a touch of protein) prior to an activity will fill the body with easy quickly accessible fuel needed for an athlete to perform. However, it is important to not eat too much within 30 minutes of an activity otherwise the body will juggle digestion and exercise. Having a meal 2 hours before an activity is a good amount of time for the body to digest food and have it ready and available for exercise. The meal 2 hours prior should some include protein to ensure the body has a mix of simple and sustained energy sources. After exercising and at all other meals, it is better to fuel the body with complex carbs such veggies.
Proteins: Athletes need protein to feed muscles and maintain body strength. In addition to having some protein prior to hard exercise, it is important for all athletes to include a post workout protein source within 30 minutes of a hard work out to replenish the muscles and allow the body to recover properly. Good sources of protein are organic and grass fed meats, pasture raised eggs and Greek yogurt.
Fats: High quality fats are essential for the body’s basic cells, endurance energy and for absorbing vitamins A, D, E, and K. Additionally, fats will help manage the inflammation process and help athletes recover and sustain immune health. Athletes should try to eat more fats on non performance days and ease the organ’s burden of eating carbohydrates for energy.
Sleep: Optimal athletic performance includes proper sleep. It is critical that an athlete regularly sleep 8 hours a night for optimal performance- on the field OR in the classroom!!