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Holladay Journal

Eat well to perform well

Mar 12, 2020 11:39AM ● By Greg James

A long distance runner should be concerned about the food they eat to maximize their performance. West Jordan junior Abigail Jackson uses the high school trainers and coaches to learn what is best for her performance. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James | [email protected] 

The topic of sports nutrition is likely to spark constant change and intriguing research for a competitive or recreational athlete.

“It can all depend on the type of activity you are doing as to what you should be eating,” Andrea Talbot, a registered dietitian nutritionist at the Bariatric Medicine Institute in Salt Lake City, said. 

What is sports nutrition?

Nutrition is the foundation of athletic success. A well-designed nutrition plan allows active athletes to perform at their best. The right type of food will supply energy, nutrients and fluids to keep the body hydrated and functioning at peak levels. 

“Think about food as being fuel,” said personal trainer at Drive Personal Performance Center Kenyon James. “For a race car to perform at its best it needs clean fuel, the best it can get. If you go get unleaded fuel from the gas station before the race it will never go fast. The same is true for an athlete. If they eat junk food the body will not work well.”

The energy our bodies need for the best body function comes from three main food groups.

Carbohydrates are either simple or complex. Simple carbs include sugars that occur naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables and milk. Breads and potatoes are examples of complex carbs. The digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into glucose which feeds energy to the body’s cells.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. It plays an important role in muscle recovery and growth.

Fats provide energy to the body and protect our organs and cell membranes.

A well-designed diet and plan will include sufficient calories and healthy nutrients. Depending on the activity the athlete may adjust his intake for his or her needs.

“I used to eat like five to six thousand calories when I was riding my bike in training,” former competitive cyclist Kiley Cook said. “I eat a lot less now, but weigh about 15 pounds more. My dad bod is coming in nicely.”

Cook said his failure to adjust diet could be affecting the way his body digests the food he is eating.

Endurance event participants of one to two hours daily should eat three to five grams of carbs per pound of body weight to keep up with demand of energy on the body. A 200 pound man should eat approximately 600g of carbohydrates, but should use minimal amounts of fat and proteins the day of an event according to

If activities last more than one hour it is important to replenish the electrolytes and glucose, sports drinks and fluids are a good idea for endurance athletes.

Resistance training programs are designed to build strength. Protein intake is especially vital. According to protein requirements can vary by body type and fitness level.

We all lose body water throughout the day. Athletes lose additional body water through sweat. Fluid replacement is an essential part of a nutrition plan to maintain the body’s optimum performance.

“If you feel thirsty you're already becoming dehydrated,” Talbot said. “Drinking is a very personal thing during training. You do not necessarily need electrolytes replacement unless the activity takes more than 90 minutes.”

Whether exercising as a competitive athlete or for health improvement, sport nutrition should play an important role in your success. It can help enhance performance, improve recovery and make reaching goals possible.