In order for an athlete to have enough energy to compete, it is important that the athlete's diet contains sufficietn amounts of carbohydrates and fats, as well as adequate water, vitamins, and minerals. To get all these things, you need to eat a variety of foods every day, such as grains, beans, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. As an athlete, 55 to 60 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates; 10 to 15 percent of your calories should come from protein; and no more than 30 percent of your calories should be provided by fat. To succeed as an athlete, you need not only physical conditioning and good coaching, but also a proper diet.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates should be the main food source for an athlete because the body converts them to glucose, which is used by the body for energy. Many nutritionists recommend a high-carbohydrate meal before a performance because carbs are converted to usable energy more quickly than fats and proteins. (The meal should be eaten 3-4 hours before the event, because food in the stomach may lead to cramps.)

It is important for the muscles to have a large glycogen reserve at the beginning of an exercise period. However, athletes should not be concerned with so-called "carbohydrate loading," which is a technique of eating a lot of carbohydrates several days before a competition. Rather, they should focus on getting the right amount of carbohydrates every day. The International Center for Sports Nutrition recommends that your daily diet should include 5-6 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight (2-3 grams per pound). For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, your diet should include at least 320 grams of carbohydrates per day.

SKIPPING BREAKFAST

According to the Director of Sports Nutrition at Georgia Tech, skipping breakfast on the day of a performance can have many adverse affects:

• Your glycogen stores will be depleted, leading to a feeling of fatigue.
• Your metabolic rate (the rate that glucose and glycogen are converted and expended as energy) will be lowered.
• Your brain will not have all the glucose it needs to function. "The brain is 100 percent dependent on the carbohydrate it gets from glucose that is contained in some of the foods normally eaten at breakfast," says exercise scientist Howard G. Knuttgen.

HYDRATION

Water is a basic necessity for life. It is very important for athletes to take in enough fluids, especially water. When you perform, fuel is burned for energy, but heat is released as well. Water keeps your body from overheating. Perspiration, for example, cools your body down as sweat evaporates from your body. You need to regularly replenish the water you lose due to perspiration. Losing just two percent of the water in your body can detract from your performance; losing five percent can cause exhaustion; and losing ten percent can cause heat stroke and death.

For those who get bored with water, sports drinks are a good option. Sports drinks offer many benefits beyond their taste. If you sweat a lot, sports drinks replenish the electrolytes in your system. If you work out for extended periods, sports drinks are a good choice because of the carbohydrates they provide. When picking a sports drink, look for one with about 18 grams of carbohydrates; higher carbohydrate concentrations may delay the absorption of water by your system.

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