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Nutrients and the Supply of Energy
Exercise is a major component of a healthy lifestyle. In order to combat the negative impact of obesity and diabetes, it is best to include an exercise regimen in any health program. However, if the type of exercise required is similar to those of athletes, the strategy requires something more complicated than just physical movement alone. In the case of athletes, a primary concern is the need to sustain the ability to perform physically demanding tasks, and in order to accomplish that goal, the athlete needs to consume the right types and amounts of food sources.
At the top of the hierarchical structure for the most efficient and popular nutrient that supplies energy to the human body, one can find carbohydrates-rich foods. Good examples are rice, potatoes, and wheat. There are two types of carbohydrates, and these are: 1) complex carbohydrates and 2) simple carbohydrates (Gropper & Smith, 2013). With regards to complex carbohydrates, rice and yams are prominent examples, and one can also add wheat and cornmeal to the list. On the other hand, the best examples of simple carbohydrates are sucrose (found in fruits) and lactose (found in milk).
It is imperative that athletes and coaches are well aware of key nutritional principles in order to prevent sub-par performances due to nutrient deficiency (Gropper & Smith, 2013). Thus, sports nutritionists recommend a diet that is comprised of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and whole grains (Shils & Shike, 2006). The keywords that they oftentimes use are variety and balance.
Nevertheless, when it comes to athletic performance, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Dietetic Association issued a joint statement that athletes require adequate energy intake from macronutrients like carbohydrate, fat, and protein (Shils & Shike, 2006). It is through the consumption of the said macronutrients that athletes are able to acquire micronutrients like vitamins and minerals (Shils & Shike, 2006).
Basic Laws of Thermodynamics
In PC, Xbox, or PlayStation type of games, there are characters that gobble up energy directly from a canister or container. In real-life, athletes do not have the capacity to absorb energy directly from vegetables, fruits, and meat products. In fact, human beings are unable to do the same, because, in order to access the energy stored in carbohydrates or fats, the human body goes through a process based on scientific principles, specifically the Law of Thermodynamics.
According to the First Law of Thermodynamics: “energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can be transferred from one for to another and ultimately degrades to heat” (Porcari, Bryant, & Comana, 2015). In order to acquire the energy stored in food products, the components had to go through a complex system. In a nutshell, the utilization of energy from food nutrients requires a series of energy transfers that occur through thousands of complex chemical reactions (McArdie & Katch, 2006). In addition, these complicated chemical reactions require the correct mixture of macro and micronutrients, and at the same time, the process is fueled by oxygen (McArdie & Katch, 2006).
In a typical exercise, the body’s muscles are responsible for moving the skeletal system in order to perform specific tasks like shooting a basketball or slicing through the water with a powerful dolphin kick. In order to perform this type of action, muscles must have the capability to contract, and this is made possible through the activation of the cell’s sodium-potassium pump. A reliable source of energy is required to sustain the action of the sodium-potassium pump.
An in-depth analysis of the chemical reactions required to fuel the body reveals that the primary source of energy is a compound called adenosine triphosphate (“ATP”). An ATP’s basic structure is comprised of one adenosine molecule attached to three phosphate groups (Draper & Marshall, 2014). Each phosphate group is attached to the adenosine molecule using a “high-energy” bond (Draper & Marshall, 2014). When cells utilize the ATP as an energy source, a chemical process allows for the bond-breaking action that, in turn, releases a burst of energy. Staying true to the principle found in the First Law of Thermodynamics, the ATP compound is transformed into an ADP compound.
After identifying the exact process that enables cells to harness energy from an ATP compound, it is now easier to understand why cells are compelled to synthesize the same substance to ensure sustained homeostasis (Draper & Marshall, 2014). The initial stage in the synthesis of ATP begins when a human being ingests food. The digestion process is comparable to the mining of crude oil from petroleum oilfields. In the context of the human digestive systems wherein the body breaks down food products made from carbohydrates, fats, and protein, the catabolized compounds are glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids. Once the catabolized compounds are absorbed into the cells, the same is refined to become ATP.
There exists a continuous process of ATP synthesis to ensure the ready availability of the said compound. As a result, human beings have multiple metabolic pathways to choose from in order to synthesize ATPs. There are at least two anaerobic pathways and several aerobic pathways (Draper & Marshall, 2014). When it comes to the aerobic route, the cells utilize oxygen to create an ATP compound. On the other hand, ATP production through the anaerobic route does not require the use of oxygen.
Risk of Overtraining
The dedication and commitment to improve skills and endurance are the factors that separate champions from mediocre athletes. Thus, men and women seeking for gold and glory are committed to brutal workout and training sessions. In other words, winners are oftentimes seen as the first to arrive in the gym, and yet, they are also the last to go home. It is a good thing to spend several hours per day to hone skills and talent. However, athletes and coaches must take care not to subject the human body to the negative impacts of overtraining.
Overtraining is synonymous with excessive training frequency. Due to repeated actions, certain parts of the body experiences significant wear and tear. The first major risk of overtraining is a stress fracture. Lack of sleep and significant weight loss due to intense training can exacerbate the stress fracture problem of endurance athletes. Repeated stress causes micro-fractures, and when the body fails to increase bone mass in response to the stress, the area becomes weak and has a greater risk of succumbing to stress fractures.
Another major risk caused by overtraining is called the “medial tibial stress syndrome” (Stewart & Sutton, 2012). The colloquial term is “shin splints” (Stewart & Sutton, 2012). Athletes suffering from this condition complain of soreness and pain within the area of the medial tibia. One can argue that the root cause of the aforementioned problem is the hormonal imbalance due to intense and repeated physical activity. It is, therefore, important to teach the wisdom of taking periodic rests in order to allow the body to go through a process of healing and rejuvenation in order to accomplish certain important tasks.
The third major risk of overtraining is a triad of medical problems oftentimes linked to women. In this case, overtraining causes a phenomenon called the “female triad” (Stewart & Sutton, 2012). The term was coined to describe three related health concerns, such as: 1) disordered eating; 2) amenorrhea; and 3) osteoporosis (Stewart & Sutton, 2012). With regards to eating disorders it is harder to detect this problem in women compared to men due to the relatively lower levels of body fat among the members of the female population. Amenorrhea on the other hand is a malady characterized by the absence of menstrual periods. In fact, menstrual dysfunction is known to “occur more frequently in female athletes than in the general female population” (Stewart & Sutton, 2012).
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Finally, with regards to osteoporosis, this health issue describes the lower-levels of bone density that oftentimes leads to bone fracture or musculoskeletal injury (Stewart & Sutton, 2012). Since women are prone to these types of medical challenges, it is imperative to monitor eating disorders within a team of athletes, because it leads to different problems that are interrelated. It is therefore imperative for women athletes to maintain an ideal body mass to prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
Draper, N., & Marshall, H. (2014). Exercise physiology: For health and sports performance. New York, NY: Routledge.
Gropper, S., & Smith, J. (2013). Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
McArdie, W., & Katch, F. (2006). Essentials of exercise physiology. New York, NY: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Porcari, J., Bryant, C., & Comana, F. (2015). Exercise physiology. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company.
Shils, M., & Shike, M. (2006). Modern nutrition in health and disease. New York, NY: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Stewart, A., & Sutton, L. (2012) Body composition in sport, exercise and health. New York, NY: Routledge.