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Nutrition: A Key to Success in Sports
Certain foods can make a difference in sports competition. Conditioning, strength, and speed have been the focal points of athletic training for years; however, the research on nutritional elements indicates their importance to an athlete's optimal performance. Knowing the proper food to eat before, during, and after a physical activity can help an athlete in achieving their desired performance.
The most important nutrient categories are starches, minerals, sugars, and electrolytes. Starches and minerals fit into the area of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides (many sugars bonded together). Because of the multiple bonds, polysaccharides are able to store energy for later use. Simple sugars make up the other group of carbohydrates. The bonding structures of simple sugars are much less advanced that than those of complex carbohydrates. This allows for the burning of simple sugars in an athlete's body. Electrolytes are a category of their own because they are helpful to an athlete all of the time, whether energy storage or energy burning is needed.
Minerals are a group of compounds that allow for endurance in an athletic competition. Potassium is a common mineral associated with muscle cramping. A lack of potassium is the cause of muscle cramping during a sporting event. Minerals must be taken in at least six hours before the time of activity. Due to the complexity of minerals, they are not easily transported to the muscle cites most in need of replenishment.
Complexity of compounds is the reason they must be absorbed long before the physical activity. Starch a main area of complex carbohydrates. It has several bonds. Starches are tightly bound carbon molecules and have several attaching elements. This bonding complexity is the reason starches are capable of retaining large amounts of energy. These compounds should be taken into an athlete's body prior to intense physical activity because an energy storage supply is necessary when simple compounds are completely oxidized.
The athlete's body is able to burn simple carbohydrates quickly. This leaves him/her drained minutes into the sporting event. Examples of simple carbohydrates are sugars and electrolytes. Their bonding patterns are opposite that of starches. Loosely bonded elements are stripped of electrons through oxidation.
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Yet, simple sugars have advantages in athletic competition. During a sporting event, quick energy can be a vital factor in success. Intense physical activity over an extended period of time will use all of the stored energy taken in before hand. The athlete's body needs energy quickly in order to continue. Sugars and electrolytes are the best source of energy during the event. Simple carbohydrates give the body a "boost" when it becomes run down or until it has time to oxidize other complex energy compounds.
An athlete must eat the proper foods and drink the correct beverages before, during, and after intense activity. Prior to the action foods such as potatoes and pasta should be eaten. These are two of the highest sources of starch among all of the foods. Excessive amounts of salt on the pasta or potatoes are unnecessary. Salt will lead to the retention of excess water under the skin. For the highest results, foods high in starch should be eaten several hours before the event. Fruits and vegetables will deliver several minerals into the body. Bananas bring potassium into an athlete's body. This in important because potassium reduces the risk of muscle cramping during the event. Water is a mainstay in any athlete's body. It contains electrolytes, which are necessary in the body before, during, or after a workout.
During competition sugars and electrolytes are necessary. Powerbars are a type of candy bar made specifically for sporting events. They carry simple saccharides needed for rapid oxidation. Other candy bars have the same saccharides; however, additives harmful to optimal performance are included. Beverages such as Gatorade and Powerade are another pathway to taking in simple compounds. These drinks are high in electrolytes and simple sugars. Water has electrolytes but special drinks have a higher concentration. The increased concentration allows for higher absorption into muscle cells.
Foods containing starch, sugar, protein, and other compound categories should be used to replenish the athlete's body following competition. This is especially important if the athlete is planning on competing in the near future. Intense action diminishes the body's stored compounds. The amount of replenishment needed varies with the activity and the athlete.
What an athlete takes into his/her body has the capability of helping or hindering performance. Exceptional athletes can become drained of energy if they have not taken in the correct dietary supplements before engaging in a sport. Knowing the proper supplements can increase stamina when it is needed. The importance of an appropriate diet has been overlooked in the past. Though conditioning, strength, speed, etc. are still very important to an athlete's success, nutrition has become a contributing factor in peak performance. Athletes must be aware of this and make the changes in their diet accordingly.