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Proper sports nutrition – How to gain the hidden advantage?

Elvis Elvis

Proper sports nutrition is often the most neglected part of an athlete’s “training.” And, make no mistake, an athlete with poor eating habits is not going to perform to their potential.

There are literally thousands of books, articles, and ideas on what constitutes the best sports nutrition programs. Many an athlete becomes frustrated with the many contradictions, and with programs that are simply unmanageable.

After reading hundreds of articles, I’ve settled on what works for most athletes, most of the time. It’s important to understand no two people are identical. There is no “magic formula” that always works for every person.

What’s important is the general philosophy of a sports nutrition program. An athlete must allow some flexibility, staying within the philosophy, in order to be successful.

Here are some general rules:

1. Avoid, as much as possible, all processed foods. This single action will go a long way in helping to reduce unwanted fat and low energy levels. Examples of processed foods include snack food like chips, cookies, pastries, soda, and candy.

2. Declare war on High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)! This stuff is everywhere! Begin looking at food labels. If you see it near the top of the ingredients list, then you should avoid the food. HFCS will mess up your body’s natural ability to process sugars. No athlete should have it as part of his or her sports nutrition program.

3. Stay away from saturated fats. Remember, not ALL fats are bad for you. In fact, some are very good for you. But, nearly every expert agrees that saturated fat causes your body all kinds of problems.

Proper sports nutrition   How to gain the hidden advantage?

4. Eat your fruits and vegetables! Try to eat a lot of them. Don’t get hung up on the specific number of servings. Pick out 2-3 fruits you like, and 2-3 vegetables, and eat them when you’re hungry.

5. Eat enough of the “good fats.” Flax oil is one of the best things you can put in your body. Do some reading on flax oil. You’ll be amazed at the positive impact it has on your body.

6. Eat enough protein. This is a controversial subject. Some will advocate massive amounts of protein, while others will say an athlete has no greater need for protein than a sedentary person does. Some say excessive protein will cause kidney problems. Others say there is no medical evidence to support that idea. Most people seem to agree that a person with an existing kidney problem should avoid higher protein amounts.

Here’s a reasonable rule of thumb: Try to eat one gram of protein for every pound of lean body mass. So, a person who weighs 200 pounds with 10% body fat should eat about 180 grams of protein a day. (200 X 10% = 20 And 200 – 20 = 180) This assumes you are an athlete training intensely several times a week, and that you have no existing kidney problem.

7. Stay hydrated! Drink enough water to avoid being thirsty. Many athletes are chronically dehydrated. Your body needs water for a wide variety of purposes. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty! By then, it’s too late…avoid becoming thirsty in the first place.

Supplements

Sports nutrition is not without conflicting opinions on the use of supplements. Again, thousands of articles, books, and opinions are out there.

Most athletes don’t need to go overboard with supplementation. If an athlete is following a good diet (and they should be), then supplements should be considered just that – a supplement or “boost” to the good diet.

Here are some ideas for you to consider:

1. A good multi-vitamin. Let’s face it, our food supply isn’t the purest. It takes a little work to find natural foods that contain the proper vitamin content. So a good multi-vitamin can bridge that gap. You don’t need mega doses.

2. Meal replacement drinks, such as METRX (and others) provide your body with protein, and a wide array of nutrients in the proper amounts. They can be purchased (over the internet) at prices that run about $1.65 per pack/meal. (they come in boxes of 20 or more). You likely couldn’t prepare or by any other meal at $1.65 that would pack the “nutritional wallop” these drinks provide. They’re an integral part of a sports nutrition program.

3. Protein powders. These differ from meal replacement drinks in that they are simply protein (no added vitamins, etc). Again, there is a wide variety to choose from. Protein powder can be used to make drinks, or added to your morning cereal, etc. It’s a versatile way to add a little extra protein to your diet. Optimum Nutrition makes a very good whey protein that comes in a five-pound tub for less than $30. That’s a good buy.

Proper sports nutrition is the foundation for the athlete’s performance. It could mean the difference between first place, and second. And, very few people ever remember who finished second….

As an athlete, take the initiative to learn and practice good sports nutrition habits. If you’re serious about competing at an elite level – where the difference between first and second is razor thin – then you’ll pay the price needed to form good habits.