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Five nutrition tips for avid and weekend athletes

The following sponsored content is provided by Prisma Health-Upstate.

Warmer weather is luring weekend athletes across the Upstate to area golf courses, walking and biking trails, tennis courts and parks. Whether you’re an avid or occasional participant in individual activities or team sports, athletes of all ages and skill levels have unique demands upon their bodies and unique needs for adequate nutrition and fluid consumption.

One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of weekend workouts and performing at the highest level in your sport relates to the proper fueling of your body with a focused nutrition and hydration plan. Think of the food that you eat as the fuel for your body, the engine.

The biggest barrier I often hear patients report as it relates to proper nutrition is lack of time for planning and preparation, along with difficulty implementing and then adhering to an effective nutrition program. But for those who feel tired or sluggish, or have noticed that it takes longer to recover from games or workouts, here are some helpful tips:

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Your mom was right when she told you not to skip breakfast. Your body needs to be charged and ready for the day and for your training or competition. Breakfast should be your largest meal of the day. Make sure to include the proper amount of carbohydrates, along with 12 to 16 ounces of water.

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Fuel your body with carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are critical to an athlete’s optimal performance and are the preferred fuel during exercise. Carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, and fruits and vegetables should make up approximately 60 percent of total calories consumed (about 350 grams of a 2,200-calorie diet). This is the most efficient energy source, producing and storing the glycogen needed to give your body endurance during exercise. Carbohydrates help you avoid hitting “the wall” and feeling sluggish during workouts.

Improve performance with protein

Protein is also an important aspect of an athlete’s diet and should make up about 15 percent (about 80 to 100 grams) of your diet. Good protein sources include meats such as chicken, turkey, lean red meat, eggs, cheese, yogurt and beans. Protein is utilized by our bodies to help stimulate muscle repair and growth.

Eat early, often and balanced

You should eat something within an hour of waking in the morning and then about every three hours afterward to help fuel your body while keeping your energy levels high. Utilize between-meal snacks such as fruit, yogurt, nuts and energy bars.

Stay hydrated and avoid too much caffeine

Fluid consumption is critical to proper performance and the avoidance of injuries and problems such as heat illness. Even as little as one to two percent dehydration can have a negative impact on performance. General guidelines include consuming 16 ounces of fluid/water two hours prior to participation, and five to 10 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.

For training or events lasting less than one hour, water is usually adequate. For longer events or practices, a sport drink with carbohydrates should be considered. Also, be cautious with the number of caffeinated beverages consumed, which can also contribute to dehydration.

About the Author

Kyle James Cassas, MD is a sports medicine specialist at Prisma Health – Upstate with expertise in the non-operative care of orthopaedic and musculoskeletal conditions. Much of his practice focuses on the care of recreational and endurance athletes such as runners, cyclists and triathletes as well as sports-related concussion and sports performance/nutrition. After earning his medical degree from the University of Nevada, he completed a surgical internship at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas and a residency in Family Medicine at St. Paul Medical Center. Dr. Cassas then completed a fellowship at Methodist Hospitals of Dallas and holds a Certificate of Added Qualifications in Sports Medicine.

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