Whether you are an athlete, someone who works out regularly at the gym, or are just considering getting more physically active, you may be wondering how what you eat and drink affects your performance. The world of sports nutrition can be particularly confusing, because you may get conflicting information from magazines, web sites, coaches, or friends. Should you eat special foods before you compete? Should you take special supplements to bulk up? Can you be a vegetarian and expect to be powerful? Checking out this section will help you fuel up for fitness.
Do nutrition needs of an athlete differ from others?
It may surprise you to learn that in many ways, your nutritional requirements aren’t much different from a person who has chosen to be less active. You both have the same needs for a variety of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, about the same requirements for fat, and surprisingly, your need for protein is only slightly higher as an athlete than that of the non-athlete. One important nutritional difference you have as an athlete is that your carbohydrate needs are generally much higher. “Carbs” are the body’s most efficient energy source, one upon which all athletes and active people rely. Without adequate carbohydrate sources in the diet, you will “hit the wall” very quickly when you work out, and find that overall, you just aren’t feeling up to par. If your sport or physical activity patterns require a higher energy intake, you can eat more from all the food groups, and may even have extra room for foods usually thought of as empty calorie treats (more desserts, soda, higher sugar granola bars, etc.).
5 food groups will give you the major nutrients your active body needs:
- Fats (also called lipids)
- Another important “nutrient” for athletes is water
An athlete’s specific needs within each of these nutrient groups is discussed below.