Nutrition,General Articles,Players,Parents

Eat right, play right

Ben Cook Thu, 06/16/2005 - 9:33am

But when you are rushing between school, practice, games and all the other places you and your family go, do you choose the food that will keep you healthy and full of energy, or do you go for what's fast or easy? Eating right is as important for an athlete as exercise.

We know. You've heard this a million times…or have you? Did you ever stop to think about what happens to food after you swallow it? Does your stomach stop and say, "cheeseburger?" Well, not really. Every food is made up of three basic building blocks called proteins, carbohydrates and fats. You need some of each. Your body only knows the building blocks, or nutrients, that are in the foods you eat.

Does This Mean You Can Eat Anything You Want?

No, not exactly. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats all have calories. If you think of your body as a fireplace, the calories from food are like the wood. The trick is to get your body to burn all the calories it needs to provide energy, without having extra calories left over at the end of the day. Just like extra wood gets piled up near the fireplace, extra calories pile up in your body and get stored as fat. Your body size and daily activity determine how many calories you burn each day.

Fats have more calories than proteins and carbohydrates, so diets that are high in fat-like most fast foods-are usually high in calories. A 10-year-old, 90-pound athlete might need between 2,600 to 2,800 calories a day to grow properly and give his body the right amount of energy. But one Big Mac sandwich has 590 calories. So if that 10-year-old eats two Big Macs for lunch, plus a large french fries (590 calories) and a large soft drink (300 calories), the meal has 2,070 calories. If he eats only 2,000 calories more for the rest of the day he will have taken in more than 4,000 calories. The extra calories his body doesn't use get stored as fat.

How To Manage Your Calories

1. Eat slower.

Your body has a built-in meter that makes you feel satisfied when food is digested. When you eat quickly, you eat a lot before you start to feel satisfied. Slow down, and give your body a chance to feel full.

2. Don't overeat.

Eat an amount of food that is satisfying but doesn't make you feel stuffed. Then later, if you're still hungry, grab a healthy snack.

3. Stay active.

Activity burns calories and allows you to eat more.

4. Reward yourself for being active.

On days you are less active, do not eat between meals. On days you are very active, eat extra snacks.

5. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

They are high in the vitamins your body needs and low in calories. You can eat tons of "veggies" and still keep your calories low.

6. Cut out soft drinks.

The sugar in these drinks is high in calories.

In addition to being high in calories, diets that are high in fats can be bad for your heart. The American Heart Association recommends that fats make up less than 30 percent of your total diet. Eat a balance of different foods to get all the vitamins you need. Too much of any one food is never good. Consider a multi-vitamin as a healthy supplement, but avoid "rapid fix" supplements that promise overnight results. There is no magic potion or pill that can turn you into Terrell Owens.

Ben Cook, MA, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, is the program manager for Carolina Sports Performance Center. He has been involved with athletic strength and conditioning for 15 years. He was the strength and conditioning coach for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball team from 1993 to 2001, and is the author of 52-Week Football Training and Total Basketball Fitness: A 52-Week, Year-Round Training Program.

This article was reprinted with permission courtesy of Kickoff Magazine.

The evaluation of any athlete, whether as a part of health evaluations prior to activity or as a diagnosis of an injury as the consequence of sports activities, is specific to that individual and the history and current state of the individual presented. Advice, diagnosis and treatment is individualized according to numerous factors, including patient health and age information, medical history and symptoms. All athletes should be cleared by a physician or other appropriate medical professional before engaging in physical activities and, after injury, diagnosis and treatment, for return to play.