Coaches are often the first people to provide any nutritional guidance to athletes. Unfortunately, many coaches are ill-prepared to provide such guidance and, under most state laws, are not authorized to provide nutritional direction. However, when it comes to sports nutrition, many coaches and players simply focus on weight and muscle gain. This “plan” lacks research-based information.
Below are 3 key nutritional facts that all athletes and coaches should be aware of.
· Hydration. Coaches and athletes should all understand the proper hydration entails a lot more than water breaks during practice. Maintaining proper hydration can be complicated based on the intensity of the sport, the environment and each individual. A distinct problematic scenario revolves around the classroom setting. While athletes progress throughout their day, a stop at the water fountain between classes can go a long way towards aiding hydration levels. Poor hydration leads to fatigue, weight loss, and, contrary to popular belief, is the primary culprit behind muscle cramps. Athletes should maintain proper hydration levels throughout the day. During practice in warmer areas (in a gym, outside during spring and summer, etc.) they should drink water incrementally.
· Carbohydrates. Glycogen is the primary fuel source for the body. Carbohydrates are easily turned into glycogen and without enough, you’ll see slow, sluggish performance. Eating an ample amount of carbohydrates throughout the day will replace muscle energy lost in workouts and keep the body from robbing the muscles of protein for energy. A goal for athletes should be to intake about 50 grams of carbohydrates 30 to 45 minutes post-workout. This could include a bagel with peanut butter, a banana and a cup of chocolate milk or a cup of Greek yogurt with a handful of granola. Remember chocolate milk – it’s one of the absolute best post workout drinks you can find.
· Protein. The amount and timing of protein are equally important when an athlete wants to increase muscle mass and strength. Protein builds muscle and repairs muscles damaged during exercise. When an athlete conducts a strenuous workout, tough practice and lengthy games, a large amount of stress is placed on muscles. If total protein consumption is too low, muscles will not be able to properly recover, new muscle will not form, and athletes may experience an increase in soreness, as well as delayed recovery time. Timing: After a workout, practice or game 20 to 30 grams of protein within 30 to 45 minutes post-workout should be consumed. Amount: An athlete intent on increasing muscle mass or strength should intake 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight in a day. This will ensure enough protein is synthesized to illicit repair and growth of the muscles. As a general rule, 20-30 grams of protein should be eaten at each meal. This will leave time for protein supplementation throughout the day. That level of protein can take the form of a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards, a protein shake or three eggs.
Here are four quick and easy post-practice recovery meals:
– 1 cup vanilla low-fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup granola
– Smoothie with 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt, 1 cup water and 2 cups frozen blueberries
– Protein shake blended with 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup blueberries and 1 banana
– 3 eggs and 1 cup rolled oats