Young athletes need to eat right

Richard Bogren, Reames, Elizabeth S.

News Release Distributed 07/20/10

Young athletes need adequate fuel, fluids and nutrients to perform their best. Eating right helps delay fatigue and allows them to push harder and recover faster, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

To fuel the body for exercise, it needs carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fluid, she adds.

In 2009, the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine released the following recommended guidelines for healthy eating and athletic performance, Reames says:

– Calorie and macronutrient needs, especially carbohydrates and protein, must be met during times of high physical activity to maintain body weight, replenish energy stores and provide adequate protein to build and repair tissue.

– Fat intake should be sufficient to provide essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins, as well as contribute calories for weight maintenance.

– Adequate amounts of food and fluids should be consumed before, during and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance and improve recovery time.

Although several sports supplements have been the subject of well-controlled research studies and have supporting evidence for their use, research also has shown many claims to be misleading or false, Reames says.

“Manufacturers are not required to prove a supplement is safe before it is sold – or even that it works,” she says. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration can take action to remove or restrict the sale of a supplement only after it has been on the market and has been shown to be unsafe.”

Reames offers the following tips for healthy eating and athletic performance:

– Eat a wide variety of foods based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid food groups – grains, vegetables, fruit, milk, meat and beans.

– Eat 6 to 7 ounces daily of lean meat, poultry or fish or the equivalent from eggs, beans, nuts or seeds, along with dairy foods and grain products, to meet protein needs. This amount supplies enough protein for most athletes, although weight lifters and athletes involved in endurance sports need somewhat more protein. Athletes who are vegetarians can consume enough protein by eating a variety of foods, including beans, nuts, seeds and peanut butter.

– Balance food intake with energy needs to promote a healthy body weight. Because an athlete tends to burn more calories than the average person, an athlete also needs to consume more calories. Calorie needs depend on the type of sport, how often it’s played, the intensity of activity and the athlete’s body size.

– Choose healthful foods to provide recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins do not provide energy, but they are essential for turning food into energy.

Although some research suggests athletes’ high activity levels may increase their vitamin needs, increased amounts of vitamins for athletes are not recommended. Athletes who restrict energy intake, use severe weight-loss practices, eliminate one or more food groups from their diets or consume unbalanced diets with low micronutrient density may require supplements.

– Drink before, during and after prolonged physical activity to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance.

– Time food and fluid intake in relation to training and competition. Eating proper foods before physical activity will provide energy and give strength for the finish.

For a pre-activity meal, choose foods high in carbohydrates, adequate in protein and moderate in fat and fiber. Eat a larger meal three or four hours before the activity or a lighter meal one to two hours before. Closer to the activity, eat a small snack such as fruit for an energy boost.

Rick Bogren
1/4/2011 1:10:14 AM
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