Protein consumption is essential for athletes as it helps them in building muscle tissue. However, one should ensure that excess protein in the form of complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables has to be avoided. Excess of such proteins may lead to dehydration and puts pressure on kidneys. Lean meat and eggs are the ideal source of protein for athletes. 15-20% protein intake is sufficient for an athlete in a day.
For athletes, a sufficient dose of carbohydrates is indispensable, as it provides them with instant and long-lasting energy. Again, one needs to avoid excess of it, as it can slow one down. Carbs increase stamina and ability to work. Green pasta, cereals and breads are good sources of carbohydrates for an athlete which account for 40-50% of carb calories. They are also high on fiber content.
Young athletes have to be active and on their toes at all times, therefore they need to include fats in their daily diet. Unsaturated fat in the form of nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils is a good source for athletes. When the body runs out of energy, which is being derived from carbohydrates, it uses body fats that provide long term energy. Fish is a rich source of fats and also provide proteins and other minerals.
Vitamin A, C and E are extremely important for an athlete. During exercise, some free radicals are produced in our body which can be damaging to the cells. The vitamins mentioned above help to restrict this damage and minimize it by neutralizing the free radicals. Citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C.
Minerals like calcium and iron are good for an athlete’s health. Calcium strengthens the bones and helps avoid stress fractures that are common in athletes. Iron, on the other hand, helps produce oxygen in body and regulate it. Deficiency of iron can lead to fatigue and adversely affects the ability to perform. The foods that are rich in calcium include skimmed milk, milk products and eggs.
Athletes should drink plenty of water to keep their body hydrated. Dehydration can lead to fatigue in muscles, which is bound to affect performance and may also lead to other health problems.
A diet mostly comprising of complex carbs and lean protein is a healthy and balanced diet for an athlete. Take care to break up the daily diet into 5-6 healthy meals in a day.
Athletes should avoid alcoholic beverages, excess caffeine, sugary products, fatty meats and processed foods. Alcohol should also be avoided.