Few factors have as much impact on an athlete’s performance as what they put into their body; their diet. While the human body is surprisingly tolerant to an unfavorable diet, which explains how we are surviving the mass availability of toxic foods, an athlete’s requirement is far different. The same concept applies to automobiles: the higher performance the engine, the higher quality fuel, or more octane, the car needs. Use lower quality gasoline, and the car will experience lower gas mileage, reduced performance, and even possibility of engine damage.
However, unlike cars, human nutrition is not defined by a simple octane number. With six different nutrients we obtain from our diets, human nutrition is subject to much more scrutinizing.
The most paramount of the six nutrients, water is what the majority of our body is composed of; about 70%. Water is responsible for maintaining homeostasis (life). A standard measurement for daily hydration is eight cups of water a day, however, that is not enough for most people, and certainly not enough for athletes. A general rule is per 15 minutes of exercise, drink 8 oz (or half a cup) of water. Increased hydration before exercise is also required.
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, which are substances that our body needs in trace amounts to maintain normal body function. Vitamins can be broken down into fat and water-soluble, in which fat-soluble (A, D, E, and K) can be stored in fat cells while water-soluble must be constantly replenished as it is being circulated rapidly. Minerals differ from vitamins in that they are inorganic, but still serve to the same definition. Examples include sodium, potassium, and calcium. Micronutrients are found abundantly in foods such as fruits and vegetables, but due to the very nature of micronutrients, many athletes fulfill their daily requirement through supplements and sports drinks.
While water and micronutrients are...
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