"The battle is won before it is fought" is a saying by Sun Tzu from The Art of War and sums up the importance of proper nutrition for athletics pretty well. If you do not make a conscious effort to eat a well balanced and nutrient dense diet including proper hydration you will be giving your opponents a decisive advantage. How disciplined you are with this key component will determine if you reach your full physical or athletic potential.
To find out how disciplined you are answer the following questions.
- Eat a large nutritious breakfast of approximately 500 calories everyday?
- Eat at least 3 balanced meals / day?
- Consume a nutritious snack between meals?
- Eat from all food groups (carbohydrates, fats and proteins)
- Consume most of my calories from complex carbohydrates?
- Avoid fried foods, cookies, cakes, and soda and restrict my intake of fat calories to 25%
- Read food labels / make wise choices?
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day?
- Drink at least eight (8 ounce) glasses of water each day?
- Pay attention to body composition instead of bodyweight?
- Avoid random supplementation and testimony for celebrities?
The Super Six
There are 6 basic nutrients in the foods you eat. A balanced diet with enough calories will provide you with more than enough of these essential nutrients. Look no further than the grocery store to find all six:
4. Vitamins/ Minerals
Carbohydrates are your best source of energy. There are two types of carbohydrate simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include refined sugar, candy, soda, ice cream, and most pastries. These should be eaten sparingly. Complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads, pasta, fruits and vegetables. "Carbs" are the bodies best source of energy for intense physical activity. Furthermore, complex carbohydrates contain more nutrients and are better for an athlete. Approximately 50- 60% of your daily caloric intake should come in the form of carbohydrates. A simple test is to look at the plate your meal is on, more than half of the plate should be covered with carbohydrates.
Carbohydrate food choices
- Whole wheat bagel, bread, or pasta
- Brown or long grain white rice
- Cold Cereals which are high in fiber
- Air popped popcorn
- Potatoes with the skin
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grain crackers
- Pancakes (from scratch)
- White flour bagels, bread, and pasta
- Instant or minute rice
- Cold cereals which are high in sugar
- Instant oatmeal
- Microwave popcorn
- Dinner rolls
- Microwave pancakes
- Muffins with > 5g of fat
- Oil popped pop corn (movies)
- Buttered Pretzels (found in the mall)
- Crackers > 3g of fat (Ritz)
Fat is a poor source of energy, it takes the body a long time to break it down into a usable fuel. If the body cannot break it down into usable fuel or there is too much available, it will be stored as body fat. There are two types of fat, saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats include animal fats (the white lines in beef), butter, salad dressings, cheese, fried foods, whole milk and many pastries. Saturated fats can become damaging to the cardiovascular system if too much is consumed. Unsaturated fats are less harmful. Examples include corn oil, olive oil, and peanut oil.
The additional fat serves no value except to insulate the body and make it more buoyant. So unless you are planning to swim long distances in cold water, there is no advantage to adding any excess fat to your body. Only 25% of your daily caloric intake should come in the form of fat and most of that should come from unsaturated sources.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are essentially the "building blocks" of muscle tissue. Without adequate amounts of quality protein it is very hard for the body to build and repair muscle. Adequate sources of protein are, Lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, low fat dairy products, and soy products. These products are considered complete proteins since all amino acids are present. Other protein sources are nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and beans. These sources are considered incomplete proteins since one or more of the essential amino acids are missing. It is very important that you eat a wide variety of protein sources since both complete and incomplete foods have nutritional benefit.
- Beef: Top round
- Beef: London broil
- Beef: Flank Steak
- Beef: Ground 90% lean
- Beef: Tenderloin
- Pork: Tenderloin
- Pork: Center cut chops (trimmed)
- Chicken breast w/o skin
- Turkey Breast
- Egg Whites
- Canned Tuna (water)
- Any broiled or grilled fish
- All beans and legumes
- 1% or Skim milk
- Lowfat yogurt
- Beef: Bottom round
- Beef: Sirloin
- Beef: roast
- Beef: T-Bone
- Beef: Ground 80% lean
- Pork: Chops with bone
- Pork: Ribs
- Chicken Breast with skin
- Chicken: Dark Meat (legs and thighs)
- Chicken: Wings
- Soybeans, Tofu
- 2% milk
- Frozen Yogurt
- Beef: Porterhouse
- Beef: Brisket
- Beef: Ground < 80% lean
- Pork: Butt
- Pork: Shoulder
- Hot dogs
- Deli Ham
- Salami, Bologna
- Bacon, Sausage
- Fried Chicken
- Whole Eggs
- Tuna fish (packed in oil)
- Whole Milk
- Regular yogurt
- Ice Cream
Vitamins are chemicals that sustain life. They serve as metabolic catalysts that regulate all chemical reactions in the body. People often take vitamins to give them more energy. Vitamins do not provide energy, food provides you with energy. A balanced diet will provide more than enough vitamins.
Minerals are inorganic compounds, usually salts and oxides. The Food and Nutrition Board considers 16 minerals essential for humans. If you eat a balanced diet you will be fine.
Fruit and Vegetable Choices
- Any Fresh Fruit
- Any Frozen Fruit (frozen fresh - check bag)
- Any Fresh Vegetable
- Any Frozen Vegetable (frozen fresh - check bag)
- Dried Fruit
- Fruit Juices
- Frozen Vegetables with sauce
- Canned Fruit in natural Juice
- Canned Vegetables
- Creamed vegetables
- Canned Fruit in syrup
The most important nutrient is water. The body is mostly composed of water; all systems are dependant upon water. If you are an athlete few things will cripple you faster than dehydration. It sounds simple but dehydration will lead to premature fatigue, poor recovery from workouts and possible heat illness. As a rule you should be consuming at least 8-10 (8oz) glasses of water each day. I would recommend drinking more especially if exercising intensely or outdoors in the sun and heat.
What is a calorie?
Calories are units of heat. There are 3500 calories in one pound of fat. If your goal is to lose weight, (and we recommend no more than 1 lb per week), you must eat less and exercise more, typically aerobically. This caloric restriction must be spread out over seven days. As a rule eat 250-500 calories less each day. That is the equivalent of 5 cookies, 2 soft drinks, a regular bowl of ice cream, or 20 French fries.
Before you stop eating first find out how many calories you need each day, in order to function healthfully and maintain your current body weight.
Multiply your body weight times 15 calories.
EX. 180 pounds
x 15 calories
2700 calories / day.
2700 calories is what this person needs each day in order to maintain his/her current body weight. In order to lose 1 lb per week this person would have to consume 2200 calories each day.
Do not lose more than a pound of fat each week through calorie reduction. Any additional fat loss should come from exercise.
If your goal is to gain weight the same rules apply. Find out how many calories you need to maintain your weight, and add 500 calories. Just like losing weight, gaining weight should be a slow process, no more than 1 pound per week. Any more than 1 pound per week will most likely be stored as excess body fat.
The Skinny on Body Fat
A hot topic around the health and fitness field is body fat percentages and how much is acceptable. A high a percentage of body fat, (25% for men and 31 % for women), can have negative impacts on athletic performance as well as cause major health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Although a certain amount of stored fat is necessary for maintaining normal brain development, nerve function, and hormone levels. As well as serve as a cushion for internal organs against trauma, and act as an insulator during cold weather. This "essential fat" is by no means the ideal percentage to shoot for and is between 3-5 % for men and 11-13% for women. Dropping below this range could result in serious side effects including loss of menstruation in women, hair loss, excessive dry skin, and poor muscular function. Ideal and healthy body fat ranges are 10-17% for men and 19-27 % for women, athletes may have slightly lower percentages but still should be around these ranges.
Finding and accurately measuring body fat levels can be a bit tricky. One of the most accepted measuring tools is the Body Mass Index (BMI). This is essentially a height and weight chart designed to correlate body weight with health risks. Although this tool is easy to use and viewed by many in the medical community as appropriate it falls short for many athletes. Due the fact that muscle mass is no accounted for and a heavier more muscled athlete will receive a poor score. Another, more accurate method of measuring body composition is a skin fold or "pinch test" whereby a trained person measures specific sites on the body and through a calculation can determine the persons body fat level. This is a very practical way of estimating body composition but is subject to tester error and finding a trainer practitioner is not always easy. Personally, I prefer a simpler test, known simply as the waistline test. Periodically measure your waistline around the navel with a tape measure. If you are gaining weight and your waist line is the same size than you are gaining lean muscle weight. If it is becoming larger than you are gaining fat weight. This test is especially important for athletes trying to gain weight for their sport. Gaining fat is not an advantage so pay attention to your waistline. The important thing to remember about body fat is that although it is necessary one must engage in a healthy active lifestyle and follow a nutrient rich and low fat diet in order to prevent unwanted fat gain. The additional fat serves no value except to insulate the body and make it more buoyant. So unless you are planning to swim long distances in cold water, there is no advantage to adding any excess fat to your body.
Why Diets Fail
Excerpt from: Weight Management, Get Fit NJ 2004
By Douglas Scott
The terms calorie and diet are very much linked and often send chills down the spine of individuals who have dieted and failed. Often the word diet is associated with counting calories, restricting favorite foods, or weighing foods. Certain diets may also require special pre-packaged foods, special drinks, or expensive supplements.
The "dieting" concept is often misunderstood, partly due to the way it is marketed by the media; diets are often seen as short term rapid weight loss "gimmicks". Whether it is high carbohydrate or low carbohydrate, no fat or high fat, all ultimately fail. "Fad" diets don't work for two main reasons, food restriction and poor education.
A main reason why most diets fail is their focus is on what foods can't be eaten, rather than on a balanced approach. Diets that restrict specific foods or food groups are a disaster waiting to happen. Not only are these diets unrealistic, but they are also unhealthy. For example, restricting carbohydrate consumption to the point of deprivation is causing more harm then good. Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy, and fruits, vegetables, and grains provide a host of vital vitamins and minerals. Although weight loss occurs at the onset of these diets, it is mostly water and protein that is lost, not body fat.
In addition, restricting favorite food items is unrealistic in terms of long term success. Ask yourself this question can I go the rest of my life without eating this food? If the answer is no, the diet will eventually fail. Diets should focus on long term compliance and allow for all foods to be eaten in a balanced, healthy manner.
Another reason diets fail is many don't focus on how to eat healthy, or how to determine healthy foods. These are vital skills that must be taught if a long term commitment to a weight management program is to happen. Many popular diets simply focus on caloric restriction to promote weight loss and require prepackaged meals or drinks. This approach is easy to follow and may cause weight loss, but what happens when these items are unavailable? Many times the "dieter" is left stranded as to what to eat, and often reverts back to old "unhealthy" eating habits. Remember the proverb, "give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach him how to fish, he eats for a lifetime." This is never truer than with healthy eating.
A Word about Supplements
The diet industry is a multi billion dollar industry that depending on the audience either promotes rapid weight loss or muscle building miracles. Unfortunately most of the claims made by the manufactures of these products are not completely accurate. In fact, these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning there is no guarantee that you are receiving the product you have purchased; or even if the labeling is accurate as to the amount of the substance consumed. In short, if you are taking various supplements with the intent of transforming your physique, you are most liking falling prey to wishful thinking and creative marketing. Since the FDA or any other government agency does not regulate nutrition supplements for content The Fitness Center Staff finds it very hard to support most of the supplements on the market today. However, there are certain types of supplements which do have merit within the framework of a healthy eating plan. Listed below are times when certain supplements can be considered valuable.
Before taking any vitamin or nutrition supplement remember what the intent of the product is. By definition a supplement is designed to augment or "supplement" an already healthy diet. So if you are currently making poor food choices or skipping meals then no supplement will help correct this. There is no supplement for consistency and dedication to a sensible eating plan.
Supplements which have value
Whey Protein powder is a product which is derived from the protein in dairy products. It is a very convenient way of adding a complete protein source to your diet. Add to a fruit smoothie, or to cooked oatmeal, for a quick and nutrient packed breakfast. A protein drink can also be used as a post workout meal replacement, especially if the student will not have access to quality foods in the near future. This product can also prove valuable to any student practicing a vegetarian eating plan, where protein intake is sometimes questionable. When looking to purchase protein supplements look for ones that are low in sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Multiple vitamin or antioxidants can be helpful in meeting the requirements for various nutrients which might be lost through intense activity, or missing altogether from your diet. In reality it is very difficult at times to eat the required amount of fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, many times the soil where the produce is grown is lacking many of the nutrients which should be passed on to the fruit and or vegetables. This means that an apple might not have the vitamin C content that it once did, say 10 years ago. Taking a multi-vitamin might be a good idea as an "insurance policy" to receiving adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Just a word of caution: the body can only absorb so much of any one nutrient. So there is no need to look for products which contain 200-300% of the RDA required amount of that nutrient.
Fish oil, flaxseed oil, and cod liver oil are supplements derived from cold water fish or plant seeds and contain omega 3 fatty acids. There value has been fairly well documented in the improvement of heart health by potentially reducing the negative effects of cholesterol in the blood stream. These supplements have value for individuals who do not eat fish such as wild salmon, cod, tuna, or mackerel on a regular basis. Some anecdotal evidence even suggests that taking in moderate amounts of "good fats", like the ones found in fish oil, can aid in the reduction of body fat, and aid in reducing joint inflammation. Again that research is not conclusive.
Fluid replacement or electrolyte drink products can be used to replenish many of the electrolytes lost through intense activity. Gatorade is the principle drink which comes to mind and can be used during but especially after intense activity. These products not only replace electrolytes but also glycogen, which is the primary source of energy in the body. These products should not be used to the exclusion of water. Water is still the principle drink in terms of re-hydrating before, during and after exercise.
Taken from: High School Athletes: A Healthy Lifestyle
By, Charlie Wagner '07
The Cafeteria is a hard place to eat before a practice or a game without knowing the proper amount of food and types of food you should consume. The worst part of a cafeteria is that you can go up and get as much food as you want, and with all of the different possibilities in a lunchroom it is hard to not want everything that is good that day. The key is to keep your ratio of carbs, proteins, and fats in check, as well as the amount of estimated calories you have for the meal.
A great place for protein, carbs, and fats is always the salad bar. The best proteins are tuna and turkey, which are great for sandwiches and on top of a salad. For salads, make sure you add in colorful vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and broccoli. Also, a great add in for protein and fiber are chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or any other type of beans. Instead of turkey on a salad, you can always add a slice of cheese and a hard boiled egg in order to get enough protein. When it comes to dressing, do not us too much; two tablespoons is enough, and the best choice is always vinaigrette. A great option to go along with a salad is a sandwich. Always try to use whole grain bread because complex carbohydrates are better for you. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is also a good option for lunch or as a travel along snack for after practice.
The pasta bar is a great source of carbohydrates. Marinara sauce is the best option here because cooked tomatoes are very healthy and contain Lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant that can prevent certain types of cancer and heart disease. Baked or broiled fish and meats are great sources of protein from the main line, and cooked vegetables and potatoes are great side options. Also, broth based soup is also a great way of adding extra vegetables to your meal. In addition, omelets from the grill are a great source of protein, eating "breakfast" foods for lunch or dinner is an affordable, easy way to prepare a meal that is very nutritious. Unfortunately, there are a lot of foods high in fat and calories in the dinning hall. Choose to eat the tastiest fatty foods, such as chicken nuggets, hamburgers, hot dogs, Rueben sandwiches, and French fries in moderation and make sure you balance your plate with fruits and vegetables. The key is to have a small portion of these high fat items; do not deprive yourself.
Finally, there are the desserts in a cafeteria. They are the hardest to resist, and the hardest to not fall victim to overeating. You should only eat one brownie, 2 cookies, one cupcake, or a half a cup or small bowl of frozen yogurt. I know these numbers seem very low, but remember you only want thirty percent of your meal to be fats (and not just dessert items contain fat). Just keep track of what you have eaten and how much, and you will be just fine in the cafeteria setting.
Used with permission from the authors of the book "Youth Fitness: An Action Plan for Shaping America's Kids"
In the last few years, energy drinks have become increasingly popular with more than 500 new products spawned worldwide in 2006 alone. But the truth is that energy drinks have been around for many years.
Recently, the popularity among kids has caused some real worries. Several health risks are associated with drinking these beverages, especially when excessive amounts are consumed.
Perhaps the biggest concern with these products is the caffeine content. Just how much caffeine is in these beverages? Well, declaring the amount of caffeine on the Nutrition Facts panel isn't required and most companies don't voluntarily disclose the information on their containers. But in one study, researchers tested the caffeine content of 10 energy drinks. They found that the majority of those beverages contained about 62 to 74 milligrams per eight ounces.
It's well worth mentioning the caffeine content of a few energy drinks. Red Bull - the most popular energy drink in the world - contains 80 milligrams of caffeine per 8.3 ounces which actually pales in comparison to many others. Cocaine Energy Drink - and yes, that was an actual brand prior to it being called "No Name" - contains 280 milligrams of caffeine per 8.4 ounces. And Spike Shooter has even more with an astonishing 300 milligrams of caffeine per 8.4 ounces. But these levels of caffeine don't come close to the amount that's available in some smaller servings. A two-ounce "shot" of Fuel Cell has 180 milligrams, a one-ounce "shot" of Ammo has 171 milligrams and a 2.5-ounce "shot" of Redline Power Rush has - no typo - 350 milligrams.
If this isn't disturbing enough, think about this: The FDA considers a safe limit of caffeine for carbonated or "cola-type beverages" as about 65 milligrams per 12 ounces (or about 43.33 milligrams per eight ounces). So why can energy drinks have so much more caffeine? The reason is because energy drinks aren't classified as carbonated or cola-type beverages. Thus, these potions have gone unchallenged by the FDA.
Side Note: The "energy" that's obtained by consuming energy drinks is due to the high levels of sugar, caffeine and other stimulants. Even "diet" varieties can contain high amounts of stimulants.
Why the Concern?
Research has shown that consuming beverages that are loaded with caffeine without reducing the intake of caffeine from other sources may produce a condition known as "caffeinism." The symptoms of caffeinism include nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, irregular heartbeat and respiration (breathing), light-headedness, jitteriness and frequent urination. Also consider the fact that kids who aren't habitually exposed to caffeine may develop these symptoms from even a moderate dose.
Researchers feel that caffeinism occurs more often in those who consume energy drinks because of the speed and volume at which the beverages are ingested. Most individuals who drink hot coffee do it slowly over the course of an extended period of time while kids tend to guzzle the cold energy drinks - and in greater amounts than the hot brews.
So, the over-consumption of caffeine - which is dictated by individual sensitivity - can lead to a number of uncomfortable treks to the bathroom, sleepless nights and "the shakes." Because of its diuretic properties, many individuals - especially athletes - can experience muscle cramping and fatigue which more or less squelches the notion of getting an extra boost from caffeine to improve athletic performance. It should be obvious that kids who consume these beverages even occasionally are at great risk