Health information for your life.

Eating For Exercise Is Simply Different

efesdohn runs two miles every day.

Sue does aerobics three times a week for an hour.

Nick plays basketball and trains every day during the season.

Maria plays tennis twice a week all year round.

These days it seems as though everyone has some sort o fitness program. Whether it’s running or aerobics, basketball or tennis, people have caught on to idea of staying fit.

If one aspect of fitness is exercise, another – nutrition – is sometimes neglected. in addition, ideas about proper nutrition for those who exercise change from time to time as more information about the body is discovered.

All Kinds of Ways

There are all kinds of ways that you can get fit and stay that way, depending on your temperament, your time, dedication, and your current physical condition. There are programs you can do on your own, such as walking, running, or aerobics. And as long as you work at them regularly, your fitness will steadily improve.

Other kinds of exercise include sports programs, both individual and with teams, such as football, basketball, or track.

With any fitness program, your nutritional needs will vary, depending on how often you exercise, the length of time you spent, and the intensity of your workout.

A Balancing Act

For the average person, active or inactive, the basic nutritional need is for a balanced diet that is composed of these elements:

* Protein: Lean meats, poultry, and fish, as well as eggs and cheese, are a good source of protein. Protein needs are essentially the same for both the very active and the more sedentary person, although an endurance athlete may need a little more. Six to eight ounces per day is adequate protein for most people.

* Fats: Fats are the most concentrated source of food energy. They are needed for endurance activities. But athletes who burn 5,000 or more calories a day may be consuming more calories from fat than currently recommended for the general population. Experts are currently studying how to meet a very active athlete’s calorie needs without including so much fat.

Because fats leave the stomach slowly, avoid consuming fat prior to physical activity.

Fats are found in butter, cheese, and other dairy products, as well as egg yolks, meats, oils, lard, and shortening.

The Best Meal

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are present in the body in the form of glucose in the blood and glycogen in the liver and muscles. They are the most efficient source of energy for the body, and they need replenishing daily. There are two kinds of carbohydrates: Sugar are simple carbohydrates. Starches are complex carbohydrates and are found in whole-grain breads and cereals, vegetables, fruits, and legumes (beans).

Active people require a diet fairly high in complex carbohydrates so that they will have the necessary energy for their exercise. In fact, the best meal before a game or hard exercise should include carbohydrates such as bread, cereals, and pasta. The reason for this is that at low levels of exercise or during short-term intense exercise, carbohydrates are the main source of energy. During prolonged exercise, there is a shift by the body to the use of fats. Athletes in training need a diet of as much as 70 percent carbohydrates. A commonly used source of energy for them as they compete are glucose drinks.

* Vitamins: Extra vitamins a re not needed for increased physical activity, with the possible exception of the B vitamins, the need for which is slightly increased by exercise. You can meet these and other vitamin needs by eating a well-balanced diet.

* Minerals: Your requirements for most minerals do not increase with physical activity, but there are two exceptions: Sodium (salt) and potassium can be depleted during intense, prolonged exercise in hot weather. Except under extreme conditions, sodium lost through sweat is replaced in a balanced diet. Potassium is found in bananas, apricots, and fruit juices, as well as potatoes, and can easily be replaced.

Water: Essential

* Water: Water is essential for survival. It is necessary for all energy production in the body, for body temperature control, and for the elimination of the by-products fo cell metabolism. Drink more than the normal six to eight glasses per day when you are engaged in prolonged activity or exercising during warm weather.

* Milk: One myth that seems to be prevalent especially among athletes is that one should stay away from milk. Far from being bad for you, low-fat milk is an important part of anyone’s diet, and athletes are no exception. Milk is rich in protein, calcium, riboflavin, and other vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrition “bargain.”

Some athletes take calcium supplements to protect their bones, but bones need the vitamin D, phosphorus, and other nutrients found in milk but not included in the supplements.

Those who really can’t drink milk and want its nutrition may be able to add nonfat dry milk milk to recipes that call for milk. In addition try other calcium-rich foods such as dark leafy green vegetables – broccoli, for instance – and canned salmon and sardines with the bones.

The diet of an athlete and that of the normally active person aren’t so very far apart. In fact, if the athlete eats a balanced diet and makes a few minor adjustments for intense activity or competition, that should help keep or her at optimum fitness level.

Before You Compete

* Eat enough to ward off hunger or weakness during the whole period of the activity or competition. * Time your meals so that your stomach is empty by the beginning of the activity. * Fluid intake should be at an optimal level just before and during competition. * Pre-competition dies should contain no food – such as greasy or high-fat foods – that might upset the digestive tract. * The pre-game menu should include only familiar foods. * If an athlete is convinced certain nutritious foods will help him or her excel or win, they should be included.

Watch Out for These

* For a normal-weight athlete, trimming too many pounds for the sake of a competitive edge can be dangerous. The American Medical Association and the American College of Sports Medicine have both issued position statements strongly discouraging the practice. * Commercial “activity” drinks have proven to be effective as a source of fluid. But water is also recommended. It’s been shown that water is probably still the best source for most athletes for getting fluid back into the body – and obviously the most economical choice. Water mixed with fruit juice (5 to 7 parts to 1 part juice) is also used.

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