Good eating habits are important for athletic performance. As a matter of fact, poor nutrition can be a limiting factor in athletic performance. Thus, if you are part of a sports team or spend a lot of time participating in physical activity it is important that you have sound dietary habits. If you would like to improve your eating habits or have questions regarding your nutritional status call the Student Health Center at (310) 506-4316 option 3, and schedule an appointment to see the dietitian.
Ideally a sedentary person should drink eight glasses of water per day. However, with exercise the fluid needs increase. It is easy to become dehydrated if one exercises for more than 30 minutes. Thus drinking water before, during and after athletic performance is important. It is estimated that for every pound of weight loss one needs to drink one 8-oz glass of water. Only if you are exercising more than an hour is an electrolyte drink warranted.
Carbohydrates are important for athletic performance, as they are stored in the muscle as glycogen. When the muscle glycogen stores becomes depleted the athlete will become fatigued and can no longer perform at an optimum level. It is important to get around 55-60% of your total daily calories from carbohydrates. Good sources are grains, cereals, vegetables, pasta, and rice.
Protein is needed for growth of tissue and muscle. However, there is a misconception regarding the protein needs of athletes. Many think that the more protein or amino acids they consume the bigger their muscles will become. In fact, the extra protein over 2g/kg bodyweight will be stored as fat or used as energy. Instead, make sure that the calorie level meets the need for the type of exercise you are doing. Sources of protein are meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, beans, peas, nuts and tofu.
The main role of fat in athletic performance is to spare carbohydrates and to help with low intensity and long duration exercise. Fat intake for athletes should be 20-30% of your total calories.