Athletic Performance and Nutrition


No matter what type of athlete you are, professional or weekend warrior, young or old, what you eat and drink can be the difference between first and last place, or just keeping up with your teammates. Good fat, protein and complex carbohydrates are all part of a diet for optimal performance and recovery. Practice and training alone can not guarantee success. You need tremendous amounts of energy and endurance reserves to fuel your body to its full potential. Unfortunately, as Americans we eat too much fat and sugar from fast foods that taste great, but lack the nutrients the body needs to function efficiently. Athletes are no exception to this fact. Often times we eat protein that is difficult to digest and not enough complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, brown rice and dried beans. Simple sugars such as soft drinks, jams and jellies, and candy provide few nutrients but a lot of calories, and actually use up some of our important vitamins and minerals

Did you know 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated? Water is the most important, yet over-looked, nutrient by athletes. When exercising people sweat to keep the body cool. Athletes can lose in excess of several liters in a 1-hour period. Also, many sport drinks contain a large amount of simple sugars, dyes and unnecessary calories. Water is the perfect solution.

Fat intake should be adequate to provide essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins, as well as to help provide adequate energy for weight maintenance. Overall, diets should provide moderate amounts of energy from healthy fat. There appears to be no health or performance benefit to consuming a diet containing less than 15% of energy from healthy fat. Good fats include: organic meats, olive and flaxseed oils (unheated), almonds, walnuts and cold water fish, such as halibut, salmon, sardines and trout. The same diet structure should be adapted by everyone. Athletes need to increase their calorie consumption because they are expending more energy.

Protein’s most important functions in the body are to support growth and to repair body tissues. Many people feel athletes need a high protein diet to support muscle growth despite the fact that researchers have repeatedly proved this false. Good quality protein from naturally raised meats, fresh fish, nuts and seeds will all serve your body’s protein needs. They also provide important minerals for better performance on and off the field.

Incorporating healthy snacks into your daily routine and at sporting events will continue to fuel your body throughout the day. Snacks such as organic fruits, vegetables, raw nuts (depending on allergies), chicken/turkey sausage, veggie chips, and raisins are all good choices and taste great too. Bon Appetite! — Dr. Jay Provenzano