Nutrition is an important factor in determining optimal sports performance. An inadequate diet can prevent you from reaching your true potential.
Energy from our diet is provided by carbohydrate, fat and protein. Carbohydrate is an essential fuel for athletes. About 50-60% of your diet should come from carbohydrate based foods such as breads, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, scones, rolls, crackers, cous-cous, noodles, peas, beans, fruit and fruit juices. Sugar, jams soft drinks and sweets can be used to top up your carbohydrate intake.
Protein is essential for growth and daily repair of your body cells. Your protein needs increase with adolescence. This can easily be met by a well balanced diet. High protein foods include red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, yoghurts, nuts and pulses. Include these foods in your diet at least twice a day.
As per the rest of the population, athletes should avoid excessive intakes of fat. Try to reduce your intake of fatty foods and choose low fat cooking methods such as grilling, roasting or microwaving.
The mineral iron is involved in the transport of oxygen around the body. An adequate iron intake is essential for all athletes, as intense training can lead to increased iron losses. Females need even more iron than males so it is vital that they choose foods that are high in iron. Red meat is an excellent source of iron. The iron in red meat can be absorbed up to seven times more easily than iron in vegetables, cereals, fruits or nuts.
Vegetarians and women on weight reducing diets are especially vulnerable to iron deficiency.
In 2001 a dietary survey carried out in Ireland (www.iuna.net) found that 48% of Irish women aged 18-50 years had inadequate iron intakes with 1 in 3 Irish women having inadequate iron stores, and 1 in 30 having iron deficiency anaemia. An inadequate iron intake over several months can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Signs of iron deficiency anaemia can be fatigue, shortness of breath and weakness and this will certainly impair your sporting ability and performance.
An inadequate iron intake over several months can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Signs of iron deficiency anaemia can be fatigue, shortness of breath and weakness.
Dehydration can lead to fatigue, impaired performance and can also be a threat to life. For this reason, anyone who exercises should make sure they have a good fluid intake, especially during warm weather. During exercise you should aim to drink 150-200ml fluid every 10-15 minutes.
- Start well hydrated drink before exercise
- Get well hydrated drink during exercise
- Stay well hydrated drink after exercise
Other nutrients that need attention in young sports people
||Whole-grain cereals, dark leafy vegetables, liver, fortified breakfast cereals
||Dairy produce, tinned fish with bones, dark green leafy vegetables
||Sunlight exposure, oily fish, eggs, dairy produce
||Liver, red meat, dairy produce, oily fish
||Red meat, fish, eggs, shellfish, dairy produce
||Red meat, nuts, cereals, green vegetables