What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is the nourishment and energy gained through food. It is the process of taking in food and using it for functions such as growth, metabolism, and repair. Basically, nutrition is what keeps your body functioning.
Nutrition can be categorized into THREE different types of macronutrients: CARBOHYDRATES, PROTEINS, and FATS.
Carbohydrates are the building blocks of energy. It is recommended that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of your daily calorie intake. Some carbs are better than others. When choosing carbohydrates look for complex carbohydrates ("good carbs") vs. simple carbohydrates ("bad carbs"). Complex carbs are found in foods like whole grain breads and pastas, fruits, vegetables, brown rice, and whole grains, while simple carbs are found in refined foods like white bread, sugary snacks, and processed foods. Simple carbs are pretty much anything with a lot of sugar, and should be limited.
Protein is essential for repairing and rebuilding tissue, especially body recovery from tough workouts. It is recommended for proteins to make up 10-35% of your daily calorie intake. Protein can be found in foods such as meats, fish, eggs, dairy and beans. Remember to choose proteins low in saturated fats.
Last but definitely not least are fats. Fats are important for the development of body organs and the brain. It is recommended that fats make up 20-30% of your daily calorie intake. Not all fat is bad. Healthier fats are unsaturated and found in avocado, olive oil, whole eggs, nuts, cheese, dark chocolate, and peanut butter. Saturated and trans-fat are unhealthy options found in fried foods, popcorn, chips, butter, lard, and other packaged snack foods. Select healthy unsaturated fats by looking for plant based oils to cook with, lean proteins, and seeds/nuts.
Not only is what you eat important, how much you eat plays an essential role in nutrition. Choosemyplate.gov is a US website that gives advice on dieting and nutrition. They suggest making half your plate fruits and vegetables and the other half protein and grains. This is a good basic outline for eating good meals. This website also has tools to help create a personalized healthy meal plan to follow.
The energy needs for ahtletes often exceed those of the average person. It's not uncommon for athletes, especially those still in the growing phase, to have caloric needs exceeding the average 2,000 kcal per day. Daily training and recovery may require an eating plan that matches these physical demands.
You can also use phone apps like Lifesum to help track calories and nutrient intake each day. Remember to track everything you consume, including drinks. For more information, please visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ for additional resources and view MyPlate plans.
We all know that good hydration is key to athletic performance. But did you know that when you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated? It is important to be drinking water throughout the day in all weathers to keep your body hydrated. It can also be helpful to drink a beverage with electrolytes after a practice or workout to replenish your body.
What are electrolytes and why are they important? Electrolytes are essential minerals and compounds. Some common types of electrolytes are sodium, chloride, potassium, and calcium; which are contained in foods and drinks. Fluids (water) and electrolytes are both vital for your body to function properly— producing energy and muscle contractions, such as the beating of your heart. An imbalance in electrolyte levels can cause fatigue, headache, nausea, blood pressure changes, low energy, simply not feeling well, and most popularly—muscle cramps.
The body loses electrolytes through sweat, urine, vomitting, and diarrhea. You can get all of the electrolyted you need through a nutritious diet—especially when eating healthy, whole foods. Common foods include greens (spinach, kale, broccoli), avocados, beans, fruit (strawberries, watermelon, oranges, bananas), dairy, fish, and chicken. Electrolyte beverages such as sports drinks are a good way to quickly replace fluids, carbohydrates, and electrolytes that are lost during extreme physical activity; however they do contain lots of added sugar. Pedialyte is a good source of electrolytes, without the added sugar contained in most sports drinks.
TIP: Drink plenty of water, but do not overdo it. Drinking too much fluid can flush electrolytes out of your system.
FUN FACT: People think that muscle cramps come from magnesium and potassium deficiencies, when most of the time it's from losing salt through sweat. Instead of just eating bananas when you're cramping, try getting sodium in your body.