Fueling up for Fall sports

By: Visharad Moktan, Columnist 

Fall is a great season for stop-and-go sports like football, soccer and volleyball. These sports require lots of power, strong moves and endurance for practice and games. But how do you make sure you are feeding your body what it needs? There are three things you should always keep in mind: “food is fuel,” “carbs are king,” and “protein is gains.”

As an athlete, you need to consume an adequate amount of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats–the unsaturated kind. These are the nutrients that your body relies on for energy. The amount you should consume depends on your age, gender, height, weight and how active you are. Carbohydrates should provide your main source of calories. Without carbohydrates, you will lack energy, and the protein you consume will not go where it belongs. Think about it this way: carbohydrates are the “workers” and proteins are the “bricks.”

Without the “workers,” the “bricks” won’t go to the right place.

Be mindful about what type of carbohydrates you consume. Choose complex carbohydrate foods such as whole grain breads, cereal, rice and pasta, starchy vegetables, whole or dried fruit, and low-fat milk and yogurt. Eat fewer refined carbohydrates — cookies, cakes, candy and sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Don’t go overboard eating pumpkin pie and Halloween candy or drinking pumpkin ales if you want to come out with a winning record this season.

Protein provides amino acids, the building blocks for your muscles.  The timing of protein intake is crucial. For example, post-workout is one of the most important times. Eating high-quality protein within the first 15-60 minutes after a workout will help repair damaged muscle tissue and help build new tissue. Foods like lean meats, such as chicken breast and turkey burgers made with all white meat, or fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products and nuts, are all good choices. Eat fewer high saturated-fat protein sources like regular burgers, ribs and full-fat cheeses. Be mindful of how much protein you consume.

More is not better.  Eating more protein than you need is not going to give you more muscle mass or build muscle faster.

Every athlete’s diet should also contain healthy fats. Include avocado, nuts and nut butters, fatty fish, olive oil, canola oil and seeds like chia, pumpkin, flax and sunflower. Because fat is high in calories, eat according to your goal. If you want to gain weight, have a little extra. If you want to lose weight, eat a little less.

All TU athletes should be in the best shape possible in order to excel. If you consume too many “empty calories” with little nutrients, you might end up securing a position as a bench warmer. Good nutrition may not make an average player into a great player, but poor nutrition can turn a great player average. Good nutrition helps to build mass, increase speed, decrease body fat and recover faster to be ready for the next game.

If you are a TU athlete, you should make time to see Christine Turpin, the sports dietitian for athletics, or contact her through cturpin@towson.edu.  She can help you fine tune your eating plan to help you perform at your best. We want all our TU Athletes to have a winning season. Good nutrition will help you WIN, WIN, WIN!

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