No matter what level of athlete you are – or are striving to be – anyone who takes their health and sport seriously knows that their body needs fuel to reach peak sports performance.
People who want to take their athletic performance to the next level, as well as those whose busy and sometimes frantic lives mean they are burning the candle at both ends, cannot afford to skimp on proper nutrition.
Whether you are an Olympic contender or a soccer mom trying to keep up with your future superstar, here are some ways to enhance sports performance through proper nutrition.
Carbs for Energy
Carbohydrates are often misunderstood, but savvy athletes know that “carb loading” is not an invitation to indulge on frappes and donuts before the big game or competition. Carbohydrates are sugars, and they are defined as simple and complex.
Simple sugars are fructose, glucose, and other sugars. Complex carbohydrates include starches and fiber. As we consume carbs, the body breaks down most of the sugars and starches into glucose, which the body then uses to feed the cells that fuel our bodies.
Chemically, carbs are simple compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen – some of life’s most basic elements. Quite obviously, the goal is to burn more carbs than we take in. “Loading up” on good carbs (which include whole grains, oatmeal, and pasta) a few hours before a competition that requires endurance can maximize the storage of glycogen in your muscles and liver.
Looking to stock up on whole grain? Choose brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, and whole grains or oat cereals. Avoid products made up of processed flours or sugars.
Stay Hydrated with Water
The average adult is made up of about 60 percent water. So, it’s no wonder why we keep reaching for that water bottle during intense workouts and hot days. Water keeps us hydrated and lubricates our joints. It also keeps our body temperature cool and prevents us from cramping up.
While hydration is key, be wary of energy drinks or sugary “power drinks.” Special drinks with electrolytes can give your body a good jump-start, but they should not be relied on solely for sports performance. To include natural flavor and some vitamins to your water, add some sliced lemons, limes, berries, or cucumbers to your water bottle.
Balance and Moderation for Physical Performance
All athletes know that food plays an important role in sports performance training, but for many athletes, the relationship boils down to love/hate. Athletes whose sports rely on certain body types and attributes may sweep aside good nutrition for quick results.
For example, a wrestler trying to reach a certain weight may avoid drinking water, even though hydration would actually flush the system clean and may be more beneficial toward reaching the weight goal. Dancers or gymnasts may develop eating disorders rather than simply eating the right foods to maintain a healthy competitive weight.
The goal should be to eat the right thing, at the right time, in the right amount for optimum performance.
What Foods Are the Best for Sports?
Looking for some go-to foods to help your performance? These foods all belong in the winner’s circle:
Coffee is the ultimate time-tested energy drink. However, unlike canned energy drinks that pack an unnaturally overly caffeinated sugary punch, a simple cup of coffee before a competition or activity can help to increase adrenaline – which improves the flow of blood to the muscles and heart, causes you to be more alert, and can help those who may have slight asthma. Coffee is also a natural diuretic, but one cup of coffee combined with constant hydration will not have a negative effect on performance.
If you haven’t heard about the healing and preventive properties of turmeric, then listen up! Turmeric, a spice commonly found in Indian food, is nature’s anti-inflammatory herb.
Not only athletes, but also those who suffer from joint and nerve pain, have foregone painkillers and anti-inflammatories and instead consume a daily dose of turmeric either in tea, sprinkled over food, or taken in capsule form.
If bananas had a nutrition label, you would swear they were made of multivitamins! Bananas are an essential part of any athlete’s diet for many reasons, but most people know bananas as probably the best food source of natural potassium available outside the drug store.
Potassium helps muscles contract while reducing the effect of sodium on blood pressure. Plus, bananas help your body maintain fluid levels and also help regulate blood pressure and reduce cancer risk.
How Can I Achieve Sports Performance?
When performing at a high level, it’s important to know how to keep your body functioning efficiently and fueled properly. An orthopedic specialist or therapist can help you craft a nutrition plan that’s not only nutritious but also delicious.
Sports Performance Nutritional and Orthopedic Guidance in Watertown, New York
At North Country Orthopaedic Group, our experts help athletes of all backgrounds reach their potential through orthopedic and nutritional guidance and care.
If you would like to schedule a consultation, call us at (315) 782-1650. You can also fill out our online appointment request form now.