Sports Nutrition

Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Steve Miller USAF PD

Many people engage in sports activities, especially during the spring and summer months. Sports, such as golf, tennis, softball, basketball and baseball require strength, endurance and flexibility. Nutrition is a critical element of your fitness program. You have to eat to have the energy necessary to play 9 holes of golf or catch fly balls in the outfield. Sports nutrition often focuses on carbohydrates for energy. Professional athletes boost their performance by loading up on carbohydrates a couple of days before a competition. Protein is another important nutrient for strong muscles and repair of muscle tissue after vigorous sports. Whether you and your co-workers play softball on Saturdays or you play basketball with the kids after school, it’s important that you eat nutritious foods. 

Never skip breakfast. Your body has not had nutrition while you were sleeping and it will be low on energy stores. If you exercise without breakfast you may feel weak and dizzy. Plan to eat at least one to two hours prior to exercise. Fruit and whole grain cereals or whole wheat toast are good choices for breakfast. Slice some bananas or strawberries and add them to a bowl of whole grain cereal or oatmeal with low-fat vitamin-fortified milk. How much you eat will impact your performance. Eating too little can leave you feeling weak, but eating too much before exercise can also impact your performance. Try to avoid eating large meals right before a you play sports. Eat large meals at least 4 hours prior to physical activity. Small meals may be eaten as soon as two hours prior to sports exercise. If you eat too much too soon before exercise you may feel sleepy, sluggish or experience stomach upset. 
It’s important to eat after exercise to help repair your muscles and replace your body’s glycogen. Eat protein and carbohydrates after exercise. Drink fruit juices, eat a bagel with some low-fat cream cheese, have a snack of cheese and crackers, fruit, yogurt or a peanut butter sandwich. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. 

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