Nutrition to play role in athletic performance


Featured image by Grace Vance

Ji-Sung Lee

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith meets, tournaments and games filling up most weekends until the end of the school year, athletes must carefully watch their nutrition in order to perform at a high level.  As spring sports’ seasons are in full swing, most athletes know a healthy diet can help them feel their best while performing.
Dietitian and sports nutritionist Rebecca McConville believes nutrition is mainly about getting everything an athlete needs to perform feeling his or her best.
“A healthy diet is one that consists of enough fuel for their sport, variety to cover nutrients and balance of fuel throughout the day,” McConville said.  “Nutritious meals can help with fuel for practice and training, recovery afterwards to decrease soreness and muscle breakdown as well as fuel to help with the needed training adaptations.”
Like many athletes, junior Jadie Arnett cut back on unhealthy items she might indulge in during other times of the year.  As a distance runner, she knows that fast times call for a change in diet.
“[I give up] any sugary drinks [during the season] because they’re the worst for you,” Arnett said.  “I live for orange juice and soda and during the season; it’s like trying to quit smoking.”
Despite being tempted to reach for a fizzy drink, Arnett’s continuous success on the track steers her away from sweet treats, at least during the season.
“Your diet is 70 percent of your performance,” Arnett said.  “l definitely run better eating things like an apple instead of a cookie.”
While Arnett holds herself accountable and stays away from sugar-filled foods, sophomore soccer player Lily Abraham tries not to limit herself from foods she craves.
“I don’t have specific diet, but I try to eat as healthy as possible,” Abraham said.  “Eating healthy does affect how well you perform. I usually eat a Clif bar or some fruit and drink some water before a game.”
As two athletes trying to perform to their best, Abraham and Arnett have tweaked their diets into doing whatever they can to perform their best.  But in the case of sports nutritionist Samantha Thierry, she believes optimal performance comes in the form of nutritious filled meals.
[quote]“Proper performance nutrition plates consist of carbohydrates, protein and fruits and vegetables. The portions will vary based on time of day and activity,” Thierry said.  “Complex carbohydrates are needed to provide energy for the athletes.  Protein is needed to build/repair muscle mass and fruits and vegetables provide nutrients to help with inflammation and immune health.”[/quote] While Thierry is an advocate for getting a variety of food groups, Abraham believes it’s fine to treat herself every now and then.
“I’ll still eat something I crave, but I try to minimize how much I eat,” Abraham said.  “It’s ok to treat yourself every now and then because it can kind of be a treat for hard work. It just shouldn’t be too much.
Though Abraham sometimes uses a hard workout to justify for something she craves, Dr. Muth believes strong performance come from refueling for future workouts to come.
“If you are exercising longer than 60 minutes, then more carbohydrates, such as a sports drink, fruit or simple carbohydrates will provide energy during the duration of activity and then protein is emphasized post workout to help aid in recovery,” Thierry said.  “You will also want to add in carbohydrates with your protein sources post exercise. [This helps] replenish your glycogen stores that decreased during exercise. If complex carbohydrates aren’t consumed prior to exercise, then your body will rely on other reserves and you will fatigue quicker.”
Do you think nutrition plays a role in athlete performances? Let us know in the comments below.