The Foods & Nutrition Corner is brought to you on a monthly basis by students in Waukee High School's APEX program. In consultation with registered dietitians from Fareway, students research a variety of nutrition topics focused on improving the well-being of student-athletes. We'll also share a new recipe every month related to the primary topic discussed.
This month's Foods & Nutrition Corner written by Claire Hansen, Waukee APEX Associate
How to Stay Fueled for Competition
Eating the right foods before, during, and after competition can make all the difference in an athlete’s performance. Carbohydrates, protein, and fat play a key role in providing energy and muscle repair during all stages of physical activity. Without these nutrients, an athlete could have less stamina and become nauseous, lightheaded, and shaky.
Peak performance starts hours before the competition. Foods with carbohydrates (especially glycogen) are the best source of energy for athletes. Whitney Hemmer, a registered dietitian at Fareway, says that “about 60-70% of [the] total calories" of an athlete’s pre-competition meal should be carbohydrates. Protein is necessary for muscle growth and repair, but because it takes longer to digest, it is not ideal for quick energy. A small amount of unsaturated fat is also vital to athletes. Whitney suggests eating a meal “three to four hours before exercise” to allow the carbohydrates and protein to deliver energy to the body. However, “If there is an hour or less before [the competition], solid foods may not work." Try to drink a smoothie that contains carbohydrates or eat a small amount of fruit. Eating familiar foods and staying hydrated before a competition is key.
During Competition Nutrition
During a competition, an athlete must maintain energy and fluids. The best way to do this is to drink a sports drink. The flavor and type of drink are up to the athlete's personal taste, but there are a few important things to look for in the ideal sports drink. Whitney recommends a sports drink with “14-19 grams carbohydrate per 8 ounces, 50-170 mg sodium per 8 ounces, 30-50 mg potassium per 8 ounces, and no caffeine or carbonation."
There are three main objectives for an athlete's post-competition nutrition: refuel, rebuild, and re-hydrate. The body uses stored energy to fuel itself during an activity. After that activity, the nutrients that were lost must be replaced. Eating foods with carbohydrates is the best way to refuel. To re-hydrate, drink at least 8 ounces of water after the competition. Eating or drinking foods with protein after a competition is crucial to restoring and building muscle. Some great ideas for post-competition nutrition are chocolate milk, a meal with carbohydrates and protein, or a post-workout smoothie (see recipe below).
Recipe of the Month - Post Workout Green Smoothie
1 banana, peeled and sliced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 cup of frozen pineapple chunks
1⁄2 cup coconut water
1⁄2 cup almond milk (or plain Greek yogurt)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Optional - 1 scoop protein powder
Add all ingredients to a blender and pulse until smooth.
Serve immediately. (If the smoothie is too thick, add more coconut water to thin it out. If it is too thin, add a handful of ice.)
The IGHSAU Foods & Nutrition Corner is created by high school students in Waukee High School's APEX program. The IGHSAU is thankful for its partnership with Waukee APEX to create meaningful content to share with our member schools, student-athletes, coaches, and fans. To learn more about Waukee APEX, click here.