Sportsmen and sportswomen are indeed special individuals, driven by passion or the desire to represent their country. Being a sports person is no easy task; besides being physically active, they must pay close attention to the quantity and quality of the calories they consume. While their energy, protein, fat, and carbohydrate needs are higher than those of the average person, maintaining the right balance and quality of these nutrients is crucial.
The diet of a sports person is pivotal, given the fluctuating energy requirements, especially during intense physical activities. For instance, a healthy young sportsman aged 19-30 requires around 3000 Kcals, while those beyond 30 may need between 2800-3000 Kcals. Nevertheless, their requirements remain higher than those of the average person.
When we talk about a mixture of carbohydrates, Proteins and fats, we cannot forget the importance of multi vitamins in the diet. They are also as important as other food groups.
IMPORTANCE OF CARBOHYDRATES: Carbs are the first nutrient to give energy to the body. Brain cells, cornea of eye and nervous tissues are majorly dependant on carbs as a source of energy. So for any sports person it is very important to undergo carb counting of the day as per the intensity and duration of his exercise. If exercise is for a short duration then the glycogen (form of carbs) stored in the body will be used up but if the exercise continues for a long time than constant supply of carbs to the body is important.
CHOICE OF CARBOHYDRATES: Whole grains and fruits are better choice over refined carbs which will raise the glucose rapidly which causes overeating. Good amount of fiber should also be included in the diet.
IMPORTANCE OF PROTEINS: As we know proteins are building blocks of the body so they become important for sportsman but apart from its function of body building it helps in building up immunity and increase the body stamina to sustain that high intensity of activity for a longer period of time. So to build up optimum stamina required by the sport it’s essential to supply body with adequate protein on regular basis. 30-35% of total calories should come from protein.
CHOICE OF PROTEINS: Choose lean meat proteins like chicken, lean fish, egg whites. These are first class proteins. For vegetarians proteins would include skimmed milk, yoghurts, beans etc but the quality of protein is low. So for a vegetarian it is recommended to include a protein supplement in the diet.
IMPORTANCE OF FATS: Fats are also required by the body for proper lubrication of bones. Fats help in absorption and transportation of fat soluble vitamins. Vitamin D required for bone strengthening requires fat for its absorption. Recommended amount is 25-30% of total calories.
CHOICE OF FATS: Choose saturated fats over trans fats. Trans fats are harmful to the body. They increase the oxidative stress in the body and thereby cause cell destruction and reduce the immunity of the athlete. So avoid fried foods and junk foods. Include nuts olive oils, fatty fish, low fat milk, and low fat dairy products to meet up the requirements.
VITAMINS: Vitamins play a very important role. Vitamins help to maintain cell integrity and also fight against the oxidative stress in the body by destroying the free radicals. Antioxidants are required especially after playing sports and exercising.
WATER AND FLUIDS: Hydrating body for an athlete is equally important with other nutrients. It increases the functionality of the sportsman. As proteins tend to induce constipation, adequate supply of water and fluids become necessary.
FIBER: With everything else is the diet fiber also plays an equally important part. It helps to keep the bowel movement regular.
SODIUM: Major source of sodium in the diet is salt. So a monitored amount of salt intake is recommended.
RD Neha Kava
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