With all the information available it can be hard to decide what is and is not best for you. This confusion may increase once you become an athlete as the increase physical demands will affect how you feel and what you eat. While the best form of advice will come from a certified Nutritionist there are some basics you can know to help making meal choices a little easier.
Ensure you drink fluids, mostly water, during and between meals to maintain optimal hydration. Thirst is a poor indicator of hydration status, in fact if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated enough to impair performance. Even a small amount of dehydration can impair mental and physical performance. Staying well hydrated during training and matches is essential for optimal performance and recovery.
Carbohydrates are sugar and starches found in foods. provide the fuel you need to perform during training and matches. Depending on your sport it may be best to get most of your carbohydrate intake from whole grain sources, vegetables and fruit, except when you are eating before, during and after exercise.
This is necessary for growth as protein is the building blocks for muscle growth and repair. A constant breakdown and regeneration of muscle tissue occurs every day. An adequate supply ensures that this process is not compromised. Protein is found in food form animals and legume group.
Calcium builds strong bones, which are less likely to break under the stress and strain of heavy activity. You’ll find calcium in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Other good sources include dark, green leafy vegetables (dasheen bush & broccoli) and calcium-fortified products, like orange juice.
Iron helps carry oxygen to all the different parts of the body that needs it hence reducing the feeling of tiredness (increasing energy output). This is found in red meat, chicken, tuna, salmon, eggs, green leafy vegetables and other iron fortified products. Female athletes may be especially at risk for low iron, so parents should make sure that that their girls get enough in the foods that they eat.
While the above are key nutrients to include in your diet, they do not overshadow other nutrients that are important for the proper functioning of all body systems.
A varied, moderate, and balanced eating plan that supplies the right amount of nutrients and energy is essential for achieving and maintaining overall strength, flexibility, and endurance.