How Diet Affects Athletic Performance

Diet can have a massive impact on athletic performance. Inadequate calories and nutrients can impair even the most conditioned athlete, while the right balance of energy and macronutrients will help every athlete perform their best. Dietary needs will vary based on an individual's age, gender, body type and sport. Talk with your physician, dietitian or coach to determine your unique nutritional requirements.

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Energy Requirements

Caloric intake is probably the most important aspect of sports nutrition. A calorie is a unit of energy used by your body to fuel all body functions and activities. The higher an individual's activity level, the higher their calorie requirements will be. For example, a marathon runner will require a much higher energy intake than a golfer. Inadequate calorie intake can cause athletes to feel sluggish and weak and negatively affect coordination and concentration.

Macronutrient Needs

For optimal performance, athletes must follow a diet that includes a balance of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Because carbohydrates are the body's preferred fuel source, most athletes need a diet rich in healthy carb sources, such as oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain pasta, fruits and vegetables. Proteins are necessary for building and repairing muscle fibers broken down during training. Healthy lean protein sources include fish, chicken breast, lean beef, eggs and low fat dairy. Fat is the final component of a healthy diet, but should be eaten in moderation. Stick to healthy sources low in saturated fat, such as nuts, almond butter and olive oil.

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