Create a Winning Game Plan with Wise Food Choices
There are a number of high performance sport venues here in the sunshine state, designed to mold talented kids grooming them to become the pro athletes of the future. Now some of the youngsters were born with genes aligning to create superstars and some have an athletic edge that is honed from discipline, motivation and very hard work. One of the most important keys to strengthen their performance is advice and counsel to keep them on track, fueling them for good health and optimum performance when competing.
The phrase you are what you eat is particularly telling with this group. Wise food choices and the correct timing of meals can affect performance and provide the extra something that makes the difference between a win and a loss. Carbohydrates and protein are essential. Carbohydrates fuel our bodies, and are the high-octane fuel for working muscles. Protein is needed for muscle growth, maintaining protein stores depleted during exercise, and to aid in the repair of damaged muscles.
Typically you hear that fat is bad, but fat is actually needed. Fat boosts energy and delivers fat soluble vitamins and minerals. All things in moderation—the key is to balance fat intake with your energy output. With sports enthusiasts fat can be an ally delivering energy and needed nourishment.
In addition to the nutrients that assist performance, fluids are critical. Water is an essential nutrient that makes up half the body weight. It helps transport nutrients for energy and health; it lubricates the joints and protects vital organs. It moves food through the intestinal tract, washes out waste products, and prevents constipation. And very importantly water regulates the body temperature. If you are not hydrated, you may be fatigued, prone to muscle cramps, and dizziness which can easily lead to more serious side effects of poor hydration.
When asked about performance enhancing foods, pro tennis player Sekou Bangoura of Bradenton, Florida responded “Water, make sure you have your water bottle—that is one of the first nutrients you learn to consume for optimal performance.”
The amount of water needed to stay well hydrated can be affected by the temperature, humidity, sweat rate and intensity of exercise. As the temperature rises, the amount of water required to stay hydrated increases. Whether you’re a week-end warrior or high performance athlete, it is critical that you’re adequately hydrated before, during and after exercise. If you can, adjust your exercise schedule to the coolest part of the day.
Professional athletes log a lot of miles, but they acknowledge that there is nothing like a home-cooked meal. When chatting with Evelyn Maxwell-King whose son Evan is also on the pro circuit, she shared that when he is home, the grocery basket is loaded with carbs and protein “If he and his doubles partner are in a local tournament, we can go through three dozen eggs in a week.” She continued “We also keep plenty of fruit on hand; it is easy to grab and go and makes an excellent snack. Between matches an easily digested high protein choice like a chicken or turkey sandwich is best between matches.”
I’ve seen quite a few of these young people following the guidelines for healthy eating to maximize their performance. This is a winning strategy that I recommend the general public adopt—wise food choices will boost your energy and increase fitness for peak performance in the game of life.
Take Away: Making wise eating decisions is beneficial whether you’re a week-end warrior or high performance young athlete pursuing a professional sports career.