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.