I am frequently queried about nutrition in the realm of athletic performance. Although the specifics can vary dependent on the type of sport or activity – the broad lessons remain the same and are as follows:
By far the single greatest impact from food/diet on an athlete’s performance derives from day to day nutrition overtime. Meaning, it’s the overall quality of an athlete’s diet, or lack there of, that matters the most. Quite simply the healthier the diet overtime, the better the performance and vice versa.
The second most impactful aspect of diet on performance rests on the “pre-competition” meal. The general features of the optimal pre-game feeding include the following:
Keeping the above strategies in mind, the following foods would be very bad choices: fried foods (especially fried fast foods), junk snack foods, hot dogs, burgers, sausage, donuts and pastries.
When my sons were teenagers – and competitive athletes – some examples of the types of meals I encouraged them to eat prior to competition were:
For events lasting greater than 1 hour — you may want to consider a “quicker-to-release” carb at some point during the competition. Good options are dried fruits, fresh fruits, sports beverages, dark chocolate and granola bars.
And finally, we can’t forget about adequate hydration. Even marginal dehydration significantly impairs performance. Water is definitely the healthiest form of hydration prior to an event and during activity lasting less than 1 hour. Taking in about 16 ounces of water during the 1 to 2 hours before performance is a good goal. For vigorous physical activity lasting beyond an hour, sports beverages are best — otherwise they have no place in healthy living.
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