Nutrition

  • In order to approach peak performance in athletics, student-athletes, parents, and coaches need accurate information on how to properly fuel and nourish the body. The following information is standard guidelines to help promote healthy eating habits for athletes. The athlete has to monitor food intake to replenish excessive energy sources needed for rigorous and sustained practices/competitions.

    1. Eat more complex carbohydrates. By ingesting carbohydrates, athletes maximize glycogen storage. Glycogen is the primary source of energy for muscles. Recommended sources of carbohydrates are grains, cereals, breads, potatoes, pasta, vegetables, and fruits. As an added bonus, most carbohydrate sources are also high in vitamins and minerals.
    2. Eat moderate amounts of protein. Athletes must understand that eating excess protein is not beneficial. While athletes have a slightly increased protein requirement, the normal athletic diet is composed of more than adequate amounts of protein. Eat more complex carbohydrates, not more protein!
    3. Eat less high-fat foods. Foods high in fats include fried foods, cookies, cakes, luncheon meats and whole milk dairy products. This does not mean avoid these foods totally. However, we must learn to choose low fat versions such as skim milk, lean beef, fish and chicken (minus the skin), and low fat snacks, such as pretzels.
    4. Stay hydrated especially in hot weather. Studies clearly show that performance suffers in a dehydrated athlete. Drink before, during and after exercise. Plain cold water is usually the best. However, sports drinks may provide an edge if you exercise continuously over one hour. Thirst is not a good measure of when to drink fluids. A thirsty athlete is already in early stages of dehydration.
    5. Maintain a healthy body composition. Avoid quick weight loss. Within reasonable guidelines, a leaner athlete is a more efficient athlete. A normal range of percent body fat for males is 7-18%, while a healthy range for females is 15-25%. Your body fat is determined by heredity, and of course, diet and exercise.
    6. Replace carbohydrates used for energy during training and competition. In order to refuel your body to prepare for the next practice or game, carbohydrate rich foods need to be ingested soon after exercise. Eating 200-400 carbohydrate calories within 1-2 hours of exercise is best.
    7. Eat an appropriate pre-competition meal three to four hours before practicing or playing a game, athletes need to ‘fuel’ their bodies with a high carbohydrate, medium sized meal composed of familiar food. However, within an hour of exercise, always avoid foods high in sugar such as candy bars.
    8. Don’t be tempted by nutritional supplements or other “performance-enhancers”.

    Athletes should be able to properly fuel their bodies through a normal well-balanced diet that is especially rich in complex carbohydrates, while maintaining proper hydration levels. Nutritional supplements such as amino acids, protein, high doses of vitamins and minerals may actually be harmful.

    Athletes have to monitor their food consumption. This is particularly important for female athletes. Menstruation irregularities and Osteoporosis are concerns for female athletes that are not properly nourished.  Nutrition is an important aspect for leading a healthy lifestyle for everyone. We, as a society, are currently experiencing obesity and overeating in record proportions. We have to address our eating habits and develop a plan to ensure a healthy lifestyle for ourselves and guide our children to understand and prioritize these concepts. Parents should familiarize themselves with a sound dietary/nutritional program for themselves and for their athlete.

    Food Supplements

    In the past several years, a variety of performance-enhancing substances and medications have become available without prescription in the form of dietary supplements. As their use increases, we find that some of the supplements can cause health problems that outweigh any benefit they may provide. The problem with these performance-enhancing substances, such as creatine, androstenedione, ephedrine, etc., is that there is no requirement for testing for efficacy or for side effects because these are considered to be natural foods. Ephedrine has recently been banned due to causing health problems and death to some local and professional athletes. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which places a substance under extreme scrutiny over several years before allowing the product to become available. Dietary supplements have not been tested in clinical trials to determine if they actually do what they claim to do. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the actual product contains the contents stated on the label.

    The long-term effects of creatine supplementation are not known at this time. If we are to error, especially with high school athletes, we must error on the side of safety. While creatine may modestly improve athletic performance in high-intensity activity of short duration, creatine supplements have no recognized formula or standards to follow, and there is little known at this time about the potential long-term effects. In addition, there is no recommended dosage for the substance. Reported adverse effects from taking creatine supplements include vomiting, nervousness, migraine, seizures, and atrial fibrillation. Androstenedione, an androgen, can increase blood testosterone, but any effect on muscle mass is not clearly established, and once again, this substance is not regulated or tested. Known adverse effects are documented and include early closing of growth plates and a resulting height limitation in teenage users. Other adverse effects are similar to those of anabolic steroids, which include acne, fits of rage, baldness, hormonal imbalance, and the development of breasts in men. No one clearly knows, at this time, the effects of androstenedione on the liver or cardiovascular system. In response to the recent focus on the use of food supplements, specifically creatine, the National Federation of State High School Associations has issued a position statement on the use of drugs, medicine and food supplements in interscholastic sports. The Fredonia School district supports the text of the committee’s statements listed below:

    • “School personnel and coaches should not dispense any drug, medication or food supplement except with extreme caution and in accordance with policies developed in consultation with parents, health- care professionals and senior administrative personnel of the school or school district.”
    • “Use of any drug, medication or food supplement in a way not prescribed by the manufacturer should not be authorized or encouraged by school personnel and coaches. Even natural substances in unnatural amounts may have short-term or long term negative health effects.”
    • “In order to minimize health and safety risks to student-athletes, maintain ethical standards and reduce liability risks, school personnel and coaches should never supply, recommend or permit the use of any drug, medication or food supplement solely for performance-enhancing purposes.”

    The Fredonia School District does not support the use of dietary supplements to improve performance. We adhere to the application of persistent and meaningful training to achieve success.