Self-Help Tools: Nutrition

Sports Nutrition

Good eating habits are important for athletic performance. Athletes make special demands on their bodies and poor nutrition can be a limiting factor, reducing stamina and strength. Thus, it is important that you have sound dietary habits if you are part of a sports team or spend a lot of time working out. Call the student counseling center ext.4210 and make an appointment to see a nutritionist if you have questions regarding nutrition or would like to improve your eating habits. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the most efficient source of energy for the athlete and the most readily available as they are stored in the muscle as glycogen. As a matter of fact, athletes can store a higher amount of glycogen than a sedentary person. However, when the muscle glycogen stores become depleted the athlete gets fatigued and can no longer perform at an optimum level. Thus, consuming carbohydrates during extended exercise can postpone fatigue and prolong peak performance. However, one can’t rely solely on their competition nourishment, as good eating habits on a daily basis are necessary for optimum performance. The total daily calories from carbohydrates need to be around 55-60%. Good sources of carbohydrates are grains, cereals, vegetables, fruits and milk.


Protein is needed for growth of tissue and muscle. However there is a misconception on the protein needs of athletes. Many think that the more protein or amino acids they eat the bigger their muscles will become. In fact, protein over 2g/kg bodyweight will be stored as fat or used as energy. In particular, excess animal protein should be avoided since it also contains large amount of saturated fats. Instead make sure that the calorie level meets the need for high-energy expenditure from a varied and widely selected diet. The total daily calories from protein should be around 15-20%. Good sources of protein are meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, beans, peas, nuts and tofu.


Fats are essential in our diet and needed for growth, healthy skin and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Fat is also important for satiety as it slows gastric emptying. However, fat is easy to get in excess. The biggest role of fat in athletic performance is to spare carbohydrates and to help with low intensity and long duration exercise. The total daily calories from fat should be less than 30%. Consuming a higher percentage of the diet from fat can limit glycogen storage and ultimately limit endurance. It is recommended we follow a diet that falls between 20-30% fat. Good sources of fat are olive oil, canola oil and fish oils.


Ideally a sedentary person should drink eight glasses of water per day. However, with exercise the fluid needs increase. Hydration is crucial for optimum athletic performance and it is easy to become dehydrated if one exercises for more than 30 minutes. As a result it is important to drink water before, during and after athletic performance. It is estimated that for every pound of weight loss during exercise one needs to drink one 8-oz glass of water. Only if you are exercising more than an hour is an electrolyte drink warranted.