Nutrition And Athletics.
Good Nutritional practices play a very critical role in the physical performance of not only human beings but also all living creatures. To excel in any endurance physical activity, all the body systems must perform since the bioenergetics’ functions of the muscles has to be sustained in order to function at peak levels. (Berning, J. and E. Hultman. 1972)
Energy providing nutrients, carbohydrates, lipids (which are also known as fats), and proteins provide fuel for the bioenergetics reactions, vitamins and minerals on the other hand speeds up the rate the bioenergetics’ reaction (acts as a catalysts); where water acts as a solvent for all these reactions and also serves as a cooling agents for the body from the heat which is produced by the bioenergetics reactions. (Bobb, A et al. 1969) All these nutrients are needed in appropriate quantities so as to enable the body function efficiently especially during exercise or sport. (Singh,V. N. 1992)
Food is the major source of all these nutrients although sometimes nutritional supplements are used during critical times especially when a performer needs urgent nourishment either through oral or through introversions (IV) infusion. The gastro intestinal tract (GIT) helps to break down this food into smaller components (digests) so as to ease the process of absorption. The body cells then utilize the absorbed nutrients for all metabolic reactions in the body including energy production. (Asterita M. F, 1986) Studies show that the foods eaten today serves as a body part in the future therefore nutrition is very essential.
This paper discusses the dietary requirements of an athlete, especially essential nutrients with regard to their forms, functions, food source, dietary recommendations and deficiency risks. BODY Athletes like all intensive /endurance physical activities is a high energy consuming exercise therefore diet is very critical and very essential for the health and performance of an athlete. However, Nutritional requirements for an athlete vary from one athlete to another depending on the time taken during training and actual performance. (Brouns, F. 1993)
The aims of good nutrition in an athlete according to, (Buskirk, E. R 1997) include: o To help the athlete recover from performance or training o To prepare the athlete for performance or training o And to maintain the level of performance or training of an athlete Therefore unless an athlete is well nourished he/she may not exploit his/her full potential. This nutrition involves a balanced diet which is regular and with the required amount of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. The individual nutrient requirements and the deficiency side effects include: Carbohydrate
Carbohydrate is a very important source for an athlete. It is required to help the athlete sustain the high level of the activity and to prevent muscle cramps and fatigue. (Consolazio, C. F, and H. L. Johnson. 1972). Carbohydrate in the body is stored in the muscles and the liver as glycogen and these stores must be continuously replenished. (Burke, . L. M, et al. 1991) Research shows that a person can store enough glycogen in the body to help him/her sustain an exercise for a period between 90 minutes to 120 minutes but however taking a diet low in carbohydrates can reduce this time to less than 60 minutes. (Chen, J . D. 1993)
Recommended carbohydrate An athlete is supposed to consume a meal containing between 7-10g of carbohydrates per kilograms, body weight of the individual athletes per day (7-10g/kg/bwt/day) consequently he/she should consume a pre-exercise meal 1-4 hours prior to the event and the meal should contain 1-4g of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight, however if the exercise is prolonged, one has to consume a carbohydrate during the exercise and these should be 30-60 carbohydrate per hour.
If the athlete is to participate in frequent activities he/she needs to consume in immediate post –exercise carbohydrate which is meant to aid in recovery in readiness for another performance (Bucci . L . 1995). He also says that this meal should contain 50-1000g of carbohydrate after every two hour until the normal meals resume. Signs of inadequate intake according to (Buxbaum, R, and L . J . M icheli) include: o Muscle heaviness o Lack of energy to train o Inability to concentrate for an extended period of time especially during an event o Poor recovery between training sessions
Generally the carbohydrate requirement for an athlete will depend on the body weight, height, training, regime e. g. (Intensity and duration), Type of training and the gender of the athlete. Protein Requirements Protein is needed by an individual since it is involved in the building and repair of muscles and tissues the red blood cells, hair, finger nails, as well as synthesis of hormones. It is also required so as to reduce chances of development of iron deficiency anemia and improving the healing process incase of an injury or disease. (American Dietetic Association and Canadian Dietetic Association, 1993).
They further say that adolescent and adult athletes require 0. 6-0. 9g of proteins per kilogram per body weight per day (0. 6-0. 9g of protein/kg/bwt/day). During an intensive or enduring exercise energy production takes priority over tissue building however very little proteins is used as fuel when calorie supply is adequate in the body studies reveal that the best nutrients to provide fuel in athletic are carbohydrates and fats but they are inadequate or depleted gluconeogenesis takes place (process of converting non-carbohydrate sources such as Proteins to carbohydrates) to convert proteins in carbohydrates so as to provide energy.
Proteins are the major sources of nitrogen in the body and nitrogen wastes produced after protein digestion require a lot of energy to eliminate which may otherwise be used during the event however nitrogen wastes are minimal when carbohydrates are adequate. Vitamins and Minerals. Fats are divided into two classes, first Fat soluble vitamins which include Vitamin A, D, E and K and second water soluble Vitamins which include Vitamin C and B complex vitamins.
The body requires all these vitamins in amounts exceeding the recommended Dietary allowances especially in endurance exercises such as athletics but however care should be taken on fat soluble vitamins since if taken excess they may lead to toxicity which is detrimental to the health and eventually performance, but studies have shown that even if vitamins can be taken without conditions they do not contribute directly to the performance of an athlete, however, the reactions which the body uses to provide it with energy are controlled by chemicals which are mostly made up of vitamins and minerals that the body can only obtain from the diet. (Allan ,J . G ,and K . A ,Overbaugh).
Minerals on the other hand are very important in the health and performance of an athlete in that they act as catalysts and hence speeds the rate of reactions of energy provisions in the body. These minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sulphur, potassium, sodium and chloride. It is therefore advisable that foods hat are high in vitamins and minerals especially fruits, green leafy vegetables, carrots as well as high biological valve proteins should be high in an athlete’s diet.
Fats Fats are important sources of energy in the body. The body stores fat in the adipose tissue and under the skin it is the last to be used by the body incase of starvation or depletion of carbohydrates and fat stores in the body. However, in endurance sports especially athletics, excess body fat will often be detrimental to performance. This is because the increase in fat stores consequently raises the body weight and also the body uses a lot of energy to break down fats into fats acids so that it can be used. (Chavez A, C et al, 1969)
Excess fat in the body is not only caused by consumption of high fat diet but also by consuming large amounts of carbohydrates especially simple and sweet carbohydrates since they cause fat storage. Athletes are advised to consume high complex / high glycemic index carbohydrates since it releases energy slowly to the cells thus there is reduced fat storage. However athletes should eat smaller meals than non-sports people but in frequent intervals. Water Water is a non-calorific food because it does not give any calories to the body but it is extremely necessary.
This is because the larger percentage about (60%) of the body is water and even small amounts of dehydration can have major effects on the performance of an individual. (Bobb, A, D . et al 1969) Water helps the body by protecting it against overheating (cools the body) and also as a means (blood) of transport for most substances in the body. Dehydration is very fatal in sports since it leads to reduced ability to exercise in the heat and also reduced mental skills such as concentration and decision making.
Consumption of water is the key to optimal hydration but fluids such as diluted fluid juice or weak squash drinks after can help optimize hydration. While exercising athletes are often weighed before and after a session so that the fluid that has been lost can be replaced quickly. (Berning. J. R and S . N. Steen. 1991) Conclusion For excellence in exercise and sports, all body system must perform efficiently especially the muscles. This can only be enhanced through good nutritional practices. The body gets all the nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, lipids/fats, vitamins and minerals) from the food on consumer or nutrient supplements.
Athletes require higher amounts of carbohydrates than other nutrients since they are the major sources of energy: however, other nutrients can be converted to carbohydrate through the process of gluconeogenesis incase there is inadequate carbohydrates or there is depletion of carbohydrate in the liver and muscles where it is stored in the form of glycogen. Water which is defined as a non calorific food is very important in an athlete since the highest percentage of the body is water and even small amounts of dehydration can have significant effects on the performance (both sporting and mental performance).
Additionally high fluid levels in the body help to protect it against overheating and also provide the means (blood) of transport for most substances in the body. The body’s digestive system breaks down food into smaller components which are easily absorbed by the body cells and tissues and utilized during an exercise. Diet therefore plays a very important part in the health and performance (both physical and mental performance) of an individual and should be taken seriously.