Nutrition and the Athlete

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Information on Nutrition and the Athlete

Many athletes (weekend or otherwise) believe that certain nutritional practices can enhance their performance. Some of these common beliefs are false and even potentially dangerous. Among the concepts singled out for debunking in their review are the following:

(a) "Fluid intake during competition is dangerous". In fact, the opposite is true. Restriction of fluid during competition can lead to dangerous dehydration. Athletes should be allowed to satisfy their thirst during competition; they will not become "water-logged" or develop muscle cramping.

(b) "Sugar drinks provide quick energy". If an adequate amount of food is eaten three to four hours before competition, there is little to be gained by gulping special sugar drinks during the contest. Theoretically, such a practice might actually cause the gastrointestinal tract to delay absorption.

(c) "Extra proteins help build muscles". Assuming a balanced diet that is adequate in calories, the only practice that really helps to build muscles is the exercise of those muscles. Given the cost of steak, that may be good news for athletic department budgets.

(d) "Extra vitamins are needed for energy". Again, just not so. Normal amounts of vitamins are essential for us all, but athletes need no more than the rest of us if their diets are well-balanced.

In short, persons engaged in strenuous athletics require more total calories and fluids than those who are sedentary, but such increases need only be balanced to be effective. Fancy concentrates and special vitamin supplements do not give an "edge", they only thin the wallet.


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