Healthy Athletes

One of the most important keys to success in sports is having a healthy body. Hours of training will be of no use to an athlete who does not maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Vegetables.  Photo: Pam BrophyMost people are aware of the basics to a nutritional diet. Food pyramids and idioms about apples have set the informed person on the right track, warning of artery-clogging fatty foods while suggesting well-balanced meals that are rich in vitamins and minerals. These guidelines may suffice for normal, everyday activities, but athletes need to take their diet and lifestyle a step further. Anyone who wishes to push the body’s functions to the limit – as extreme sport athletes do on a regular basis – should take the time to educate his or herself on adequate eating and energy needs. The internet is an excellent source of information, providing athletes with plenty of food tips, dietary guidelines, and medication information.

First of all, it is important to consider the specific, physical goals of the sport when fine-tuning a diet. The characteristics of these goals can then be translated into energy requirements and the corresponding diets. For example, endurance sports use energy differently than sports that require short bursts of power. A triathlete who burns energy consistently for hours has different requirements an a surfer who makes sharp, quick movements. Secondly, body size and physique are also factors that define an athlete’s appropriate diet. Suitable diets affect not only an athlete’s performance, but also long term hormonal and metabolic functions. Lastly, an athlete requires various degrees of energy intake at different points of his or her career. Athletes need to restrict their diets differently during periods of training than they do before a competition. Make sure to research your personal dietary needs and consult a professional if you have any questions or concerns.

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