When it comes to sports nutrition and eating right, there is a lot that every athlete needs to know. However with all the varying opinions and masses of information out there, starting a new meal plan or learning the basics can be a daunting task. We’ve simplified the process for you with this nutritional overview.Carbohydrates
Your body’s main source of energy comes from carbohydrates (or carbs). Carbs should form the basis of your daily intake and should make up about 60% of your daily calories. Carbs are found in breads, fruits, and vegetables. In the traditional view, carbs were categorized as simple or complex and this would determine what carb sources were the best for athletic performance. Now, however, carb sources are sorted by their ability to add glucose (natural sugars) to your bloodstream. High glycemic foods add glucose to the blood quickly and are best for after or during a sport. In contrast, low glycemic foods help maintain blood sugar levels over the long term. For the pregame meal, it is best to stick to low to moderate glycemic foods. (For a listing of foods, view the Glycemic Index.) It is important to know that your body stores energy as glycogen, and when playing, this stored energy will deplete. In order for you to keep going, it is essential to restore your glycogen levels by eating more carbs. Restoring your body’s glycogen shouldn’t only be limited to pregame meals, but also it should be an important part of your post-game, practice, and gym routines. Keeping your energy levels up will help you perform better and more consistently as an athlete.
Protein is essential for repairing muscles and is a necessary part of every athletes diet. However, protein should not be the focus of your diet. Carbohydrates are the foundation of any sports diet accompanied by proper amounts of protein and fats. Generally speaking, only 0.6 grams of protein are needed per pound of body weight. As well, protein rich foods tend to be high in fat and having too much fat before a game will hinder your performance.
We would suggest changing your diet before moving to supplements. Supplements will provide you with the necessary vitamins, but they won’t give you energy or some other essential minerals found in foods. Any pills should not be a replacement for food. A meal replacement shake is good if you are in a crunch, but they don’t do anything more than an easy breakfast or lunch can do. Generally speaking, supplements and replacements are more expensive alternatives to a well-balanced meal.
Every athlete needs rest. This statement is true for both sleep and rest days. If you find yourself burning the candle at both ends, try to give yourself more sleep. As well, rest days should be a part of your routine. If you exercise hard every day, you may not be giving your body time to replenish.
When choosing a pregame meal, eat things that your body and you enjoy. Choosing foods that are hard to digest or that you are not familiar with may hinder your performance. They can also make you uncomfortable.
Every athlete is different. Some athletes actually prefer to eat close to game time or not at all before an early game. Sometimes preference is the best choice (as long as you are getting the proper fuels to your body and you are getting them in time). If you find yourself flying out on the ice one day and not the next, keep a meal diary. Sometimes, it is a matter of finding out which foods your body reacts well to. If you find a meal that works, stick with it.
If you find yourself lagging during a game, try having a sports drink midway through. Not only will it help you re-hydrate, but also it will give you a little extra sugar for energy.
A well balanced diet will do more than a pregame meal. Although eating well before a game is essential, your overall performance will improve the most with a well balanced diet. Eating well throughout the week will help you perform well for games and will also ensure that you are always restoring your glycogen levels.