Power Food

Even young, super-active athletes must care about what they eat. Older ones should, too.

By FamilyTime

 The right food, eaten at the right time, contributes to peak performance on the playing field.

These are the body's best source of energy, but they are quickly spent. For the most efficient storage, carbohydrates should be replaced within two hours of working out.

Adequate carbs insure stamina and power. About 60 percent of the athlete's diet should come from these energy boosters.

Complex carbohydrates are best. These include cereals, grains, oats, bread, legumes, and vegetables. Simple sugars in fruits, juices, and milk are beneficial, too.

Athletes need a little more protein than more sedentary folks. This means approximately 75 to 100 grams a day - as opposed to about 65 grams a day - or about 15 percent of the total diet.

The best sources of protein are meat, poultry, and fish. Others include eggs, peanut butter, cheese, nuts, milk, yogurt, and soy protein.

Staying hydrated is critical to top performance. Everyone should drink plenty of every day, and athletes generally consume even more. No one should wait until they are thirsty to drink non-carbonated, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free liquids. Drink them often.

Athletes should drink two cups of fluid two hours before working out, and then drink four to six ounces every 15 or 20 minutes during the workout.

Without enough fluid, athletes can cramp or suffer from heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.

Water is a great choice. Sports drinks are recommended during and after especially strenuous workouts and those lasting longer than an hour.

The high sugar content of fruit juices can cause stomach cramps during or right after a workout. Dilute them so that they are only about 50 percent their strength. Avoid soda.

Good Habits
About a quarter of an athlete's daily calories should come from fat. Heart-healthy fats are best: unsaturated oils, lean meat and poultry, and low-fat dairy products.

Athletes in training - teenagers in particular - need more calories than at other times. Energy bars, granola bars, smoothies, and protein shakes are good, healthful snacks.

Eating from all the food groups is the best advice any athlete can follow. This means plenty of grains and vegetables, adequate protein, and several servings of fruit. Even a few sweets are beneficial -- they contribute to good mental health!