Eating for peak performance is critical for athletes, but you don’t need to eat differently than the Dietary Guidelines suggest in My Plate. Energy needs for male and female athletes vary depending on the activity and intensity. When choosing foods, think about nutrient rich foods, which help you get the most out of the food you eat. Macronutrients are needed in larger amounts and micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts. Adequate hydration is also essential to overall peak performance for athletes.
The amount of energy found within a given food is dependent on the macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein and fat) content of the item. Carbohydrates serve as the primary source of energy during activities of higher intensity, providing 4kcal/gram. Healthy carbohydrate food sources include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, breads and pastas.
Dietary fats also play a key role in helping individuals meet their energy needs, as well as supporting healthy hormone levels. Fats provide the body with 9kcal/gram. Healthy sources of fat include nuts, nut butters, avocados, olive and coconut oils.
Dietary protein plays a key role in muscle repair and growth. Preferred sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, dairy (yogurt, milk, cottage cheese) and legumes. Protein supplies the body with 4kcal/gram.
Hydration is a key component to performance. As a general rule for training, consume a minimum:
- Two cups of fluid prior to training
- Four to six ounces of fluid for every 15 minutes of exercise
The best hydration choices are milk, water and 100% juice. With many choices out on the market, make your choice count. Milk not only hydrates you, but one glass supplies the body with 9 essential nutrients:
- Milk is 90% water and a great tasting choice after workouts, practices and games. Milk’s fluids and electrolytes, including calcium, potassium and magnesium, rehydrate the body and replenish what is lost in sweat.
- Carbohydrates in milk refuel muscles and replenish glycogen (energy) stores.
- High quality protein aids in muscle recovery and repair.
- Calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus build and maintain strong bones.
- Milk provides potassium to help ward off muscle cramping.
- B vitamins in milk help convert food to energy.
For more information about sports nutrition please visit Western Dairy Association. Fuel up with Milk grants are now available for Spring 2017. Check out how your team can get refueled with chocolate milk.