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Nutrition is a very valuable piece of the puzzle to maximizing athletic performance.
Athletes demand routines, and the same goes for nutrition. Paying attention to what you eat and when you eat has become the centerpiece of the discussion for growing teenagers.
The habits created in youth, whether good or bad, tend to stay throughout a lifetime.
There are athletes who eat the exact same meal or snack before a game or practice. If that works for you, give it a try. Once you fine-tune your diet for that consistency, you’ll notice a difference. If you feel more energized with little to no change in sugar level, keep going.
Food is one more way to help you to feel strong and prepare you to dominate in your sport. Food is fuel and if used properly, it can elevate your game.
Here’s what local expert Morgan Walker, Lebanon Valley College’s certified nutritionist, had to say about the latest in performance and nutrition.
There is a scientific way to make sure you are consuming enough calories.
“Based on the athlete’s height, weight, activity level, and other lifestyle activities, such as work,” Walker said. “If you are leaving practice and going straight to a strenuous job, you will need to load up on quality calories. Even timing those calories out properly is crucial.”
Breaking down the need-to-know info, try to find out how many grams of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and fluids you – individually – need. Food and body type are different for each person. Once you know your overall goal, creating a plan isn’t a bad idea.
If you’re trying to get lean, your daily food intake – carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fluids – should include 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of your weight, Walker said.
“The other factors in deciding the amounts are: do you want to increase lean body mass or lose weight? Total amount of daily carbs should be 45-65 percent of total daily calories and depends on their sport and where they are in their season.”
For example, training routines and energy demands in-season versus out-of-season are drastically different. Without tracking your food intake on an app, you could write down in a journal what you are eating to see if you feel that you need to eat more or less depending on your goals and demands.
These are all factors to consider before picking up dinner or grabbing a snack to go.
Pre-game meals and snacking, there’s no perfect answer but what works for some athletes is making sure they eat something 2 to 3 hours before exercising.
For a game, Walker suggests you push it out even longer if you want your food to fully digest. While consistency and repetition may seem boring, she said to eat foods that you’ve never had any problems digesting and “never try something new before a game.”
“If you want to eat a full meal before your game, think about eating 4 hours before you compete, and your plate should look like the following: higher carbohydrates ½ plate, ¼ lean protein, and colored ¼.”
If you prefer eating 1.5-2 hours before competition, eat a snack that is an easily digested carbohydrate, along with a small amount of protein. Some examples would be: banana and peanut butter or granola.
If you want to eat less than 60 minutes before you compete, think easily digested carbs such as: applesauce, banana, grapes, pretzels, and fruit snacks.
There are so many factors that go into deciding a nutritional diet for each athlete including the sport that you play and the calories that are burned during practice or a game. Males and females also have different nutritional requirements.
Males have a higher energy expenditure than females. Walker emphasized that watching someone on social media plan out their meals may not be the right fit for your body. It’s recommended to meet with a Certified Nutritionist or Dietitian when looking to improve your nutritional habits, and to not just blindly trust anyone.
Always make sure you are taking nutrition advice from a credible source and remember to not forget your greens.
Mary Driscoll’s health and wellness column publishes every other Thursday.