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Nutrition vs. Sport Performance
The world is an orb of life. In its limited space all life forms compete to hold their own position. As Darwin concluded in his theory of evolution, “only the strong and most advanced survive, while the weak perish and are pushed aside.” Evolution, the theory we use today to fuel our need to win and succeed in any organized competition. It is this drive that results in the vigorous preparation athletes’ go through to become superior among their race. To thrive, we must understand that proper nutrition is the basis any athlete must build from in order to achieve peak physical performance. Prior to strenuous activity it is imperative that the body has the required amounts of nutrients to carry out an activity. At the latest reference it is recommended that a person consume an average of 2200 mg of calories, 60 g of fat, less than 5000 IU of vitamin A, more than 60 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin D, more than 2000 mg of potassium, 2000 mg of sodium, 65 g of protein, 1.5 mg of thiamin, 1.7 mg of riboflavin, 20 mg of niacin, and 18 mg of iron. Nutritionists of today simplify this into an equation of 40% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 30% protein that the entire day’s meals should be divided into. The total calorie intake must increase for active persons from 2200 to 2200 plus the total number used while exercising. This will ensure replenishment of the body’s system. Edgeworth 2 With the wide variety of athletic competitions, the specific meal a competitor may need to eat to benefit themselves differs widely, as do the events. The last meal or two are extremely important in both their time of consumption and content. It is these two factors that can cause a person to make or break their day just by their choices. Experience plays a large role since one must attempt many different pre-competition meals before they will find one that suits the individual. For most, the high carbohydrate diet is the choice; packing in as many as possible since it is such a huge energy source. Also, judging by time, one must decide the size of the meal. To digest a large meal takes 3-4 hours, a small meal 2-3 hours, liquid meal 1-2 hours, and a small snack takes less than an hour. A person may even find a burst of caffeine to be helpful or may just want a feeling of ease by not eating anything at all. Without practice and numerous trials the athlete may run into a problem by eating too large of a meal just before exercise and feeling sluggish. There is also a possibility that by not eating properly the athlete may become dizzy and tired. If anyone is serious about finding the “ultimate pre-event food” they should constantly be testing and refining different meals. This preparation of choice should get great attention since training methods are not as specific as eating habits. During an event digestion is 70% to 80% of its original speed. Therefore it is not wise to eat any regular sized meal while participating in activities unless they are extremely lengthy such as hiking. For the most part liquids or foods high Edgeworth 3 in water content are your best bet for helping the system as long as they are non alcoholic. Alcohol is a dehydrator. Fluids taken in will: transport glucose to working muscles, eliminate waste products, eliminate metabolic byproducts, and dictate heat through sweating. The most beneficial drink is orange juice or most any juice which will not only restore water and calories, but also many other nutrients that Gatorade or cola can not do. A good guide for fluid replacement would be 8-10 ounces for every 20 min of strenuous activity, even though this may only be a half or a quarter of what you have lost it will help recovery time. Small nutrient packed snacks will also prove beneficial to you during exercise. Once the event is completed your body still requires loads of lost products to be replenished. Your first priority should be the fluid loss that you were unable to keep up with during the exercise. How much? Well likely the best guide to tell you when to stop is the urine test. If it is clear then the body is back to hydrated form and is no longer getting rid of large quantities of metabolic waste. You can also calculate the amount of sweat lost by your weight; for every pound lost you should drink at least 2 cups of water. And of course there is always the stand by method of take as much as you feel you need since it is your body. Again alcohol is not to replace water. If you drink a beer there is just that much more water you must have. Carbohydrates and electrolytes are essential nutrients in the body to recover after physical activity. With in two hours of working out it is recommended that, even though you don’t likely crave food, you ingest a Edgeworth 4 carbohydrate rich meal with adequate amounts of sodium and potassium. A good outline for the amount of carbohydrates would be 0.5 g for every pound of body weight. You lose 90 mg of potassium for every pound of sweat, which can be substituted by a juice, yogurt, or potato. And sodium can be taken as needed since you will crave salt if your body needs it. Inadequate replenishment will result in a slow recovery. It is also important that the body rests to allow for digestion before continuing training. These factors could increase or decrease the entire recovery period by as much as two days. Many athletes believe training is the key to win. Most coaches do not include any form of nutrition into their athletes core program. It does increase muscle mass, endurance, oxygen intake, skills, mental awareness, and many more. It is where you see the most improvements in the human ability. The main thought on everyone’s mind is that the more training I do the better I will become. With this new attitude in mind many athletes in fields like swimming, running, a gymnasts consumed 400 to 700 less calories than what is recommended according to a study done by Carrie Johnston, a dietitian at McMaster University. She found that scores will increase but eventually it peeked and plummeted. This is due to the lack of care taken to ones diet. An athlete can become lighter and still have the required amounts of nutrients if they pay close attention to their eating habits as well as their exercise habits. This attempt Edgeworth 5 at defying the impossible greatly risks serious injury and long term health problems. With proper nutritional management before, after, and during exercise and competition an athlete can reach their peak performance. In the absence of required foods one can not train at maximum potential; and therefore will not compete at maximum potential even if a good meal is eaten prior. Nutrition is the building block we must all start from to begin our strive to be the best that we can be. It is the fuel that runs our system and we are somewhat like the car. It doesn’t matter how good the car is; if it doesn’t have enough good fuel it won’t win. Soon athletes will likely have to take a special shake at a certain time every day that contains exactly what they need to perform with nothing left out. The total advantage of this is not yet understood, but it soon will. So why not get there now and excel beyond today’s limits.