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Athletes Nutrition Essay

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Updated: Mar 22nd, 2020

The choice of foods determines one’s nutrition. An individual’s nutritional habits significantly influence his or her bodily functions because different foods have varying nutritional levels. The knowledge of foods, which provide various nutrients, facilitates the planning of meals and preparation of safe and nutritious foods. Excellent nutritional habits enhance people’s performance in their day-to-day activities because the body has a sufficient supply of the relevant nutrients.

On the other hand, improper nutritional habits have detrimental effects on body functions and increase people’s susceptibility to diseases. Nutrition plays a primary role in the performance of athletes. The active lifestyle of athletes demands that they eat a variety of nutrients to enable their bodies to function optimally.

Athletes require a sufficient supply of carbohydrates, proteins, fluids, vitamins, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. Although health professionals recommend the same kind of foods for a healthy lifestyle, the appropriate nutrient intake for athletes varies depending on factors such as the type of sport and intensity and length of training.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates offer a reliable source of energy, which enables athletes to exercise efficiently. An athlete should ingest carbohydrates before exercising, during exercise, and after exercise. Carbohydrates provide about half of the calories used in an exercise and are vital for athletes who exercise for long durations. Carbohydrates have a significantly high output of energy. An athlete’s ability to exercise for a prolonged period will depend on the initial level of glucose stored in his or her muscles.

Nutritionists recommend the intake of foods such as rice and pasta, which contain complex carbohydrates, before exercise (Campbell 75). Simple sugars such as soft drinks, which contain high levels of calories, are appropriate during exercise. An athlete should eat carbohydrates after exercise to restore the body’s energy. Athletes who exercise for prolonged periods should consume high amounts of carbohydrates to prevent the body from breaking down proteins.

Proteins

Proteins enable the formation and growth of muscles, bones, tendons, and skin. Proteins facilitate the repair of tissues, which wear out during vigorous exercises. Proteins help to sustain the required energy levels in the body when the level of carbohydrates and fats declines. The number of proteins that an athlete consumes should depend on the type of sport. For example, endurance athletes should take fewer proteins compared to the athletes involved in strength training (Bagchi et al. 109).

Athletes who want to enhance their muscle growth should increase their overall intake of proteins and step up their strength training and exercise. Supplements such as protein powders and shakes are not necessary for athletes who eat a balanced diet. The amount of proteins in a standard diet is enough to facilitate muscle growth and recovery from exercise. Excess intake of proteins accelerates the rate of dehydration during exercise and influences the loss of minerals such as calcium.

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals play a vital role in the synthesis of hemoglobin, maintenance of healthy bones, and protection of the body against oxidative damage. The consumption of sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals helps to boost the immune system. The intake of proper nutrients accelerates the synthesis and repair of muscle tissues. Athletes who train intensively are likely to encounter frequent muscle injuries and disruption of the supply of essential minerals in the body.

The change in the body’s biochemical adaptations due to exercises can influence the rate of loss of vitamins and nutrients. Vitamins D, B, C, and E and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium are vital to the repair of various body tissues (Bagchi et al. 314). Athletes should eat sufficient amounts of vitamin B to facilitate the production of sufficient energy and repair of muscle tissues.

The intake of plenty of amounts of vitamin D facilitates the efficient absorption of calcium and phosphorous in the body. The high rate of oxygen consumption during intensive exercises leads to oxidative damage to the body cells. Nutritionists encourage athletes to eat sufficient antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins C and E.

Hydration

The body requires enough fluids during exercise to function optimally. Dehydration exposes athletes to injuries and illnesses. Nutritionists encourage athletes to minimize the risks of thermal exhaustion by drinking about 200 milliliters of water about 3 hours before they begin to exercise. A high intake of fluids in the first two hours after an intensive exercise contributes significantly to an athlete’s recovery from dehydration.

Rehydration helps to increase the plasma volume and entails the intake of fluids such as soft drinks to restore the glycogen levels in the body (Campbell 267). Sports drinks, which contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, are the most suitable fluids to rehydrate the body. Trainers should take the relevant measures to ensure that athletes maintain appropriate levels of fluid balance. An athlete can suffer from excessive loss of electrolytes through sweat during a prolonged exercise.

The intake of amounts of fluids such as pure water, which cannot replace lost electrolytes, can lead to a decline in the sodium level in the blood. Rehydration fluids should contain essential electrolytes to avoid electrolyte imbalance, which can adversely affect the performance and health of an athlete.

Dehydration

The loss of body fluids, more than 2 percent of the body weight, leads to dehydration. A dehydrated athlete is likely to suffer from psychological strain due to impaired heat regulation and reduced body functions.

The athlete faces the risks of developing illnesses such as heat cramps or heat stroke when the dehydration level exceeds 3 percent of the body weight. Excessive dehydration has detrimental effects on the musculoskeletal system. The decline in glycogen levels and an increase in muscle temperature considerably affect the performance of a dehydrated athlete.

Signs of dehydration

The detection of the signs and symptoms of dehydration is crucial to the prevention of injuries and illness to the athlete. The signs of a dehydrated athlete include fatigue, headache, weakness, dizziness, chills, and heat sensations. The decrease in blood volume and heat dissipation and increase in glycogen use and core temperature lead to the decline in an athlete’s performance.

Supplements

Athletes who do not eat a balanced diet or have lost weight can consume supplements. An athlete whose diet lacks any key food group or contains low amounts of micronutrients can benefit from multivitamin supplements and mineral supplements. Athletes who eat a balanced diet do not need supplements.

Conclusion

Athletes should develop nutritional habits, which enable them to eat appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Athletes should drink enough fluids. Each nutrient plays a vital role in the optimization of an athlete’s performance. An unbalanced diet and low intake of fluids cause a decline in performance due to insufficient energy, muscle damage, and dehydration.

Works Cited

Bagchi, Debasis, Sreejayan Nair, and Chandan Sen. Nutrition and Enhanced Sports Performance Muscle Building, Endurance, and Strength. Amsterdam: Academic, 2013. Print.

Campbell, Bill. Sports Nutrition: Enhancing Athletic Performance. London: CRC, 2013. Print.

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