1. Daily caloric balance for athletes: Carbohydrates = 60%, Fat = 30% (only 10% saturated), and Protein = 10-15%.
2. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for athletes, and should make up the major portion of their diet.
3. Prior to competition or practice, athletes should eat a meal of about 200-500 calories (light meal) consisting of easily digestible carbohydrates such as cereal, juice, toast, breakfast bars, Pop Tarts, turkey/chicken sandwich, fruits (bananas are especially good), etc. This pre-competition/practice meal should be eaten at least TWO HOURS before practice/competition.
4. However, do not eat carbohydrates within 45 minutes prior to exercise. This can cause a condition known as hypoglycemia, which can cause feelings of dizziness, and light-headiness, and lead to early exhaustion in athletes.
5. Do not eat foods with a high fat content prior to exercise. This includes ALL types of fast foods (McDonald’s; Wendy’s Hardees, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell, etc.) These are harder to digest, and can cause cramping.
6. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Water and sport drinks are the best. Things like soft drinks, tea and coffee are loaded with caffeine, which can actually cause you to sweat more. Thirst is not a good indicator of your level of hydration. You body does not sense that it is thirsty until after dehydration has already begun.
7. Water loss during exercise increases because, as heat in the body increases, more water is lost in sweat. Sweat is the main way in which we lose water during exercise. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise. During practice sessions, be certain that you drink whenever you feel you need fluids.
8. Many times, muscle cramping is caused by dehydration. If you are having trouble with muscle cramps, check to see if you are getting enough water. It is important to get plenty of fluids throughout all practice sessions and games, and this will help prevent skeletal muscle cramping.
9. Too much acid accumulating in the muscles during exercise can also cause muscle cramping. This interferes with the muscle’s ability to contract. If you are getting adequate fluid intake, but still having trouble with muscle cramping, try taking one or two antacids (Tums, Rolaids, etc.) before training/competition. This will help to reduce the acid build-up and prevent cramping. This is known as bicarbonate-loading, and often used by endurance athletes.
10. Post-competition nutrition is very important. You need to replace the calories that you body has used in training. Do not skip meals. You need to replace the calories lost. The ideal post-exercise recovery meal should have a ration of 3:1 carbohydrates to protein. Happily, chocolate milk has this exact 3:1 ratio and is considered an excellent post-exercise recovery food.