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Effects of Proper Nutrition

Emily Ball
Colorado State University


Recovery in all athletes, elite or weekend warriors, varies depending on a multitude of
variables such as sport, gender, age, climate, etc. For this research both online and in-person
resources were used to discover general nutrition facts alongside exercise. Nutrition can be a
variation of many things, not strictly just food consumption. Nutrition includes components such
as type of food, amount of food consumed, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, as
well as fluid intake including water and recovery drinks. Finding a specific nutrition plan is
essential for all athletes and daily exercisers alike.
Keywords: nutrition, exercise, plan, diet, supplements, health, chocolate milk, recovery,
muscle, food, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, water, and athletes.


Effects of Proper Nutrition
Proper nutrition for athletes - young and old alike- are important for long-lasting muscle
recovery as well as endurance. Any exercising body requires higher levels of nutritional content
to keep up with the grueling training schedule as well as deterioration of muscles through
training. Most young athletes approach exercise training with little to no knowledge of proper
nutritional techniques and are unaware of the need for a proper diet in their everyday lives. By
implementing a nutritional plan from the knowledge they acquire on nutrition, individuals
become happier and healthier and continue to progress in their training, competition, and every
day lives.

Through use of the ILL through CSU online, GoogleScholar and PubMed information
was discovered on general nutrition with an extended emphasis on specific nutritional planning.
This information informs readers of general nutrition facts and resources alongside exercise.

The primary findings in the resources that were studied include information that guide
athletes along their nutritional pathway. The main key points in these studies revolved around
three major points. These points were nutrition, food for activity and hydration. Amongst these
points, athletes were given guidelines and nutrition information to help them prepare for
successful competition.


Nutrition can be defined as many things by different people. However, many researchers,
such as Clifford and Maloney (2015) from Colorado State University, break down nutrition into
carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the human body.
They stated, In the early stages of exercise, carbohydrates provide 40 to 50 percent of the
energy requirement. Concurrent with Clifford and Maloney (2015) the USADA (2013) states
that athletes should consume ideally 60-70 percent of their total calories from
carbohydrates. A great way to determine the amount of needed carbohydrates for an athlete is
provided by the USADA in an equation. The equation is as follows: weight in pounds multiplied
by carbohydrates in grams equals the daily carbohydrate intake (USADA, 2013). That being
said, carbohydrates are an essential part of an athletes nutrition.
Clifford and Maloney (2015) also suggest that ..athletes should consume between 6-10
grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day (p. 1). Having carbohydrates as a
key part of daily nutrition is crucial for athletes to fuel themselves for competition. However,
knowing which kind of carbohydrates to consume is also important as some carbohydrates can
be broken down more easily and some take longer fueling the body longer. Carbohydrates are
divided into two categories, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are food items such as
fruits, milk, honey and sugar. Complex carbohydrates are food items such as vegetables,
potatoes, whole grain pastas, cereals, beans and other grains (Clifford and Maloney, 2015).
These items are broken down during exercise and converted to a resource that the human body
uses for energy. However, overstocking on carbohydrates will not super-fuel the athlete in the
same day. Athletes that expect to perform any exercise or competition at a high intensity for over
two hours should start to prepare their bodies anywhere from two to three days before hand.


High endurance athletes, such as swimmers, long distance runners, etc., have a diet consisting of
about 70 percent carbohydrates (Clifford and Maloney, 2015). So, incorporating carbohydrates is
necessary for all athletes to have in their diets to help fuel their bodies and perform at their best.
The next nutritional factor presented is on proteins. When most people think of protein an
image of a big, thick steak is presented. However, proteins can be found in many different food
sources. In comparison to carbohydrates, protein is not an essential energy resource for the body.
Protein is used for the amino acids that are broken down within the body and used as a repairing
system for muscles (Clifford and Maloney, 2015). The amount of protein that an athlete should
consume is varied dependent upon the resource used. The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics
and the American College of Sports Medicine suggest that endurance athletes consume 1.2-1.4
grams of protein per kg of body weight per day and that resistance and strength-trained athletes
consume 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kg of body weight (Clifford and Maloney, 2015).
However, many athletes lack this amount of protein in their every day diet. Going hand in hand
with lack of protein is vegetarians. Because protein is primarily found in meat sources,
vegetarians need to take precautions to make sure that they are getting enough protein in their
diet to avoid possible negative risk factors.
To help both vegetarians as well as those that do eat mean, the USADA provides another
equation referencing the amount of protein necessary for athletes. This equation is as follows:
weight in pounds multiplied by protein in grams equals daily protein intake (USADA, 2013).
This equation is helpful for athletes to budget their needed protein intake and account for what
meals and snacks they will need to consume to meet this goal. Through marketing techniques,
many athletes are introduced to the protein substitutes such as protein powders and
supplements. However, though many protein supplements and protein powders are easily


available to athletes, the USADA suggests avoiding these supplements as they may contain
unknown substances that can be prohibited by sports.
Following protein in the nutritional scheme is fats. Fats are an essential nutrient in the use
of energy, which is necessary when performing ultra-endurance exercises such as an ultramarathon that can last anywhere from 6-10 hours (Clifford and Maloney, 2015). When people
think of fats they usually present it as bad, unhealthy foods. However, fat is necessary for the
body to function. The primary use for fat is through free fatty acids, which are used beginning
with moderately intense exercise. As stated by Clifford and Maloney, Fat consumption should
be a minimum of 20 percent of total energy intake to persevere athletic performance (p.1). This
sometimes becomes an issue for athletes that are trying to stay defined or at a low weight, such
as boxers and cross-country runners. By refraining from fat intake athletes predispose themselves
to hindrance of athletic performance. For fat intake its suggested that athletes should consume
20 to 30 percent of their daily calories from fat intake but also limit saturated fat intake to avoid
health risks associated with saturated fat intake (USADA, 2013). So, having fat in a diet plan is
necessary as fat is used to help the body function correctly. By consuming the correct amount of
fat as well as unsaturated fats, the body will function properly.

Food for Activity

For many athletes, pre-game and post-game meals are the most important meals of their
days. For others, they just eat whatever is in front of them and call it good. However, pre-game,
post-game as well as in-between game meals are all extremely key to help boost performance.
There are many different recommended ways that an athlete can help their body to prepare and
recovery from competition. To begin, athletes should prepare their pre-game meal. A pre-game


meal should be eaten three to four hours prior to competition and consist of foods such as bread,
pasta, fruit or vegetables (Clifford and Maloney, 2015). Athletes should avoid high-sugar foods
to decrease the chance of a sugar crash before beginning competition. Adequate amounts of
fluids should also be consumed at this time, limiting caffeine intake and focusing on water and
electrolytes. In addition to this information, Robert E. Keith (1998) from Auburn University
presented similar information in the article Eating Before & Between Athletic Events. Keith
primarily presents the information in such a way that athletes can plan their pre-event meals
strategically. He begins by introducing the overview of digestion, including the time it takes for
carbohydrates to digest (three to four hours) and the time for fat and protein to digest (five to
seven hours). It is suggested that athletes that are planning to compete avoid large meals the day
of an event. This is suggested due to a multitude of factors such as digestion, food absorption as
well as blood supply. Blood supply is a factor in digestion because the body uses the blood
supply to help digest the food. However, when an athlete is exercising or using major muscle
groups, the blood supply is pulled from the core/digestive tract and moved out to the muscles in
need making it hard for the body to digest the food (Keith, 1998).
Next Keith touches on liver carbohydrate, also known as glycogen, which is a major
source of blood glucose. Blood glucose is important for an athlete because without it the athletes
body would not be able to function properly without it due to the energy it provides. The liver
can store carbohydrates anywhere from 12 to 15 hours for the body to use, so, it is important for
an athlete to supply the body with proper nutrition to accommodate for activity (Keith, 1998). As
Clifford and Maloney touched on, a pre-event meal is the crucial factor in performance Keith
agrees. As stated in Table 1, athletes should eat two to four hours prior to an event, eat high
carbohydrate meals, avoid spicy foods, low fiber meals, avoid caffeine or alcohol, and keep the


meal small/under 1,000 calories (Keith, 1998). By following these fundamental points, as well as
key hydration two hours prior to an event, athletes set themselves up for success in their athletic
Pre-game meals are imperative, however, some times there are more than one event that
an athlete may have that day. Many times there are multiple tennis matches, soccer games, or
swimming events that have a bit of time in between. So, athletes must accommodate to their
bodies in between these events to provide proper nutrition to fuel their bodies for the next event.
For in-between games athletes should consume high carbohydrate snacks and sports drinks, still
continuing to avoid large meals or high fat or protein snacks (Keith, 1998). Many times, athletes
struggle to have any food in their stomachs in between matches or events. A great resource for
carbohydrates during activity is sports drinks. Either store bought drinks such as Gatorade or
home made - consisting of water, sugar and salt, sports drinks help provide sodium and glucose
to athletes during exercise (Clifford and Maloney, 2015). The USADA also provides information
for athletes to utilize when exposed to all-day athletic events. Tips they provide include drinking
liquid carbohydrates, such as sports drinks, and eating fruits such as oranges, bananas and
applesauce. The USADA (2013) also suggested that athletes that competing in events that last
over 60 minutes should implement the consumption of carbohydrates during competition as well.
Following any competition or practice a post game meal should be consumed about 30
minutes post-activity and include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (Clifford and Maloney, 2015).
After exercise, the USADA (2013) suggested that athletes consume a carbohydrate snack within
30 minutes post exercise as well as a couple of mixed carbohydrate meals the follow six hours
after the event or training session to compensate for glycogen loss. Some recovery snack ideas
that they provide include cereal with milk, fruit and non-fat yogurt, pita and hummus, trail mix,


low-fat chocolate milk, and banana with peanut butter (USADA, 2013). However, many times
athletes struggle to have an appetite immediately following an event or competition. A good way
to help implement the carbohydrate intake after exercise is through drinks such as sport drinks or
chocolate milk (Clifford and Maloney, 2015). The USADA also stated an important component
of the recovery process is consuming both carbohydrates and protein shortly after exercise to
restore muscle glycogen and stimulate muscle protein synthesis. (p. 15) To do this, athletes
must make wise food decisions in their post-game meals even while theyre on the road. While
on the road athletes are usually unable to bring their own meals, pre-game or post-game, so
restaurants are the only option. In this case Keith (1998) suggested that athletes select healthier,
lower fat foods. As an example, Keith compared selecting ...choose a grilled chicken sandwich
with honey mustard instead of a hamburger with mayonnaise and cheese for food and Choose
orange juice or water instead of a carbonated drink (p. 4). Another interesting tip Keith
provided was in reference to pizza selection, A thick-crust cheese and mushroom pizza would
be better than a thin-crust pepperoni, sausage, and peppers pizza. (p. 4) Its essential for athletes
to prepare themselves for eating while on the road as well as packing and/or buying adequate
snacks for in-between competitions. Overall, athletes can use these tips for competition to help
them become successful in their event or sport.

The last category that is very important in an athletes diet is water. Water alone is
essential to function daily and since athletes are expelling water with exercise through the
sweating mechanism, they need to hydrate to avoid dehydration. Clifford and Maloney suggested
that athletes consume 5 to 7 mL per kilogram of body mass four hours before any event. The



USADA (2013) presents information on fluids and hydration stating that hydration is a major
component for any athlete due to the high affect it has on an athletes performance. According to
the USADA approximately 60 percent of body weight is water (24), meaning that with any
fluid loss due to sweating, athletes increase their risk of becoming dehydrated. Four key
consequences that the body suffers with dehydration include decreased heart beat, lack of oxygen
to exercising muscles, exhaustion, and lack of depletion of by-products from body (USADA,
2013). Some ways to prevent dehydration as suggested by the USADA include consuming plenty
of fluids before, during, and after exercise as well as being cognizant of urine color and output.
During and after an event, athletes should continue to consume water and/or an electrolyte drink
to help replace the fluid that is lost during exercise. Athletes need to take caution when
consuming electrolyte drinks and try to avoid caffeine intake as it may cause negative side
effects as well as cause possible frequent urination during competition (Clifford and Maloney,
2015). Overall, hydration is just as essential to nutrition as any food component may be. Without
hydration, an athlete suffers in competition because they are depriving their body from
something that is needed to perform at optimal levels.

The findings of the research presented above bring light to the idea of how important it is
for athletes to pay attention to their bodies and provide themselves with the correct nutritional
resources to accommodate their strenuous lifestyle. Athletes need to include components of
carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and proper hydration methods to provide their bodies with the tools
that it needs to function before, during, and after exercise as well as the tools to repair itself. The
importance of nutrition has increased over the years and is now a prominent topic in society and



continues to increase in popularity. Professional athletes around the world are asked to promote
different nutritional programs, foods, and drinks in hopes that athletes of all ages will begin to
purchase these items. However, young athletes cant just get through a workout by drinking one
sports drink and calling it good. Athletes need to properly prepare meals and snacks for
themselves for before, during, and after practices, competitions and all athletic events. Its
crucial to include hydration techniques in every day life as well as incorporating it into training
schedules and competitions of athletes to allow them optimal performance. Overall, nutrition is a
component of athletics that is sometimes greatly overlooked. After reviewing these articles, it is
clear that proper nutrition is essential in the diets of all athletes as well as timing and hydration.
With proper education of nutrition and diet, athletes can become more successful and fuel their
body to the potential that it needs to reach optimal performance.




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