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Nutrition for Athletes

Posted Sunday, April 03, 2011 by Jennifer Barangan
High-School Lacrosse Athletes: A Proper Nutrition Guide
courtesy of Velocity Sports/Dr. Robert G. Silverman 

To be an exceptional lacrosse player, proper nutrition is critical. This is especially so as lacrosse requires short bursts of energy.  Therefore, knowing what to eat, and when to eat, is critical for your performance. Nutritional and proper supplementation is the edge over your opponents.   It does not only impact strength, speed and stamina, it impacts recovery as well. As athletes, you are responsible for taking control. You must provide your body with proper and efficient fueling to optimize your performance.
Athletes are unable to reach their full potential when they go to practice without eating breakfast or lunch, or skimp on fluid intake during hot summer practices; the athlete puts themselves at risk for injuries, and also ultimately affects the performance of the whole team. As athletes, you must know facts about diet and dietary habits in order to perform at your optimum level. You cannot run a high-performance racecar on kerosene. Excess weight in the form of fat reduces speed and endurance of any athlete.
Hydration is Key for Performance
Fluids should be replaced during exercise as dehydration decreases exercise performance. Two hours before exercise, consume 400 – 600 ml of fluid (12 – 20 oz.) with your pre-event meal. Then 300 – 450 ml (10 – 15 oz.) within 15 – 20 min. prior the event followed by 150 – 350 ml (5 – 15 oz.) of fluid during exercise every 15 to 20 min.
Sports drinks should include electrolytes, sodium, and potassium and chloride, which are lost in sweating. They should incorporate a combination of sugars that enables the drink to maximize absorption during exercise. (The combination of glucose and fructose is proven to allow for the best performance production.)
Eat Quality Carbs, Lean Protein, Healthy Fats
Due to the stop-and-go nature of the sport, carbohydrates fuel these short bursts of intense energy. Ideally, football players require 50% – 55% of their daily caloric intake to come from carbohydrates, 25% from protein, and 20 - 25% from fat. Carbohydrate foods with lower fat should be emphasized, e.g. whole-grain bagels over doughnuts, mashed potatoes over fries, grilled chicken over fried, frozen yogurt over ice-cream (see attached list of foods). Increasing the amount of carbohydrates in your diet will provide you with more available energy during practice and games. Avoiding fried foods decreases the risk of an upset stomach, which hinders performance.
Carbohydrates should be the main fuel source for lacrosse players. Players will not recover in time for the next practice unless carbohydrate intakes are adequate. Watch your protein intake. While it’s needed in an athlete’s diet to build and maintain muscle mass, excess protein consumption will be stored as fat and may dehydrate the body. Good protein sources are turkey, chicken, lean beef, low-fat cheese, egg whites, whey protein.
 Pre-Game Meals
The objective of pre-game meals is to fuel the body for competition. The best choice would be to choose lower-fat foods as fats take longer to digest, and therefore would sit full and heavy in the stomach. This means that fried foods and processed fatty foods like bacon and sausage are out. Favor leaner proteins that are grilled, baked, or broiled, and carbohydrates (complex carbohydrates that are lower on the G.I. index) like breads, cereal, salads, and fruits. Stay away from creamy sauces as well.  
Training Tips for Pre-game:
·         High carbohydrate foods the day before the event:
·         Light, high carbohydrate foods 1 – 4 hours before competition (e.g. bagels, bananas, fruit juice)
·         Roughly 1 gram of carbohydrates per 2.2 lb body weight is recommended 1 hour before exercise, up to 3 gram of carbohydrates per 2.2 lb body weight/h if you eat 4 hours prior to exercise. (These amounts are appropriate to raise glycogen stores at the onset of exercise, and potentially, enhance performance).
·         Avoid high-fat foods, e.g. potato chips, donuts, and french fries
Tip for Pre-practice Snacks:  whole wheat bread with natural peanut/almond butter and sugar-free jelly. Add 1 fruit if possible.
Post-Game/Lift – Meal/Shake
For optimal recovery after a game or lifting, you need to consume a protein-carbohydrate mix (remember to replenish your fluids immediately after game/lifting). The protein mix, whether meal or protein shake should be in a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Carbohydrate amount should be 1 – 1.2 g of carbs plus .5 - .6 g of protein per kg of body weight and ingestion should be within 30 min. after game or lifting session. The timing is critical as this quick timeframe optimizes the absorption of all the nutrients into the body.
Tip: Drink fat-free milk after training. Researchers from Canada found that milk ingested after weight training promoted post-exercise protein synthesis.
 Packing It: Eating on the Run
Examples of Breakfast
·               Egg sandwich on multigrain/whole wheat – no cheese
·               Unbuttered English muffin, bagels, toast with natural peanut/almond butter and preserves, jelly or apple butter
·               Low-fat or fat free yogurt with fresh fruit and a bagel
·               Low-fat granola bar
·               Pita bread stuffed with natural peanut/almond butter, cottage cheese and raisins
·               Veggies and low-fat cheese
·               Oatmeal with fruits and/or almonds
Examples of Lunch
·         Vegetables or chili stuffed potatoes
·         Salad bar: stick with low-fat dressings, beans, veggies, beets, carrots, pasta, add crackers, rolls or breads, add a  protein (e.g. egg whites, grilled chicken breast, turkey)
·         Pack lunches: Sandwiches of wholegrain/multigrain bread, fruit, fig bars, vegetables
·         Pasta with meat sauce
·         Baked, grilled or broiled meats – nothing fried!
·         Fast-food restaurants: grilled chicken sandwiches, grilled hamburgers, roast beef sandwiches, baked potatoes, salad bars (no mayonnaise, “special” sauce, butter, croutons, sour cream, etc…)
·         Thick-crust pizzas with veggies – easy on the cheese
Examples of Dinner
·         Meats should be baked, broiled, grilled instead of fried
·         Pasta with clam or marinara sauce
·         Shellfish in tomato sauce or steamed, without butter
·         Chicken/turkey breast without skin with brown rice and vegetables
·         Stir-fry dishes with lean meats and lots of vegetables in minimal oil
·         Grilled or broiled salmon, tuna, mackerel
Examples of Snacks
·         Wholegrain crackers
·         Graham crackers
·         String cheese
·         Low-fat yogurt
·         Raw nuts
·         Whole wheat pretzels
·         Dry cereal – watch the caloric content
·         Fresh fruits
·         Dried fruits or trail mix
·         Fruit juices
·         Air-popped popcorn with butter
·         Protein muffin
·         Low-fat or skimmed milk
·         Quality protein bar 
Summary of 5 Key Nutrition Tips:
1)      Formulate a hydration plan:
a.         Drink early, and often
b.         Hydrate before, during and after playing and practice
2)      Fueling around lacrosse: fueling is like part of your lacrosse equipment:
a.         Eat 30 – 60 min. before practice
b.         Eat within 30 min. after practice
c.         Fueling is the “parenthesis” around lacrosse/exercise
3)      Eat like it is a part of the game-plan:
a.           Consume 5 to 6 small meals throughout the day, at 3-hour intervals;     small nutritious meals throughout the day provides sustained energy and promotes muscle growth
4)      Composition of your plate – what does a “power plate” look like?
a.         1/3 carbohydrates, i.e. brown rice, pasta, sweet potatoes, yams
b.         1/3 vegetables/fruits, i.e. the more colorful, the more nutrition value
c.         1/3 lean protein, i.e. chicken/turkey (white meat, skinned), lean beef (loin or round), fish
5)      Be consistent! If you are an athlete, you are an athlete 7 days a week. Therefore, eat like an athlete every day!
Athlete’s Eating Schedule for Game Day
Event time
Force yourself to get up early enough to eat a high carbohydrate meal and have it be mostly digested before competition time. Be sure to include a good hydration routine as most of us are dehydrated in the morning.
A good breakfast 3-4 hours before the event, then a light snack about 45 minutes before the event would top off your fuel stores and leave your stomach in a comfortable state.
An adequate breakfast and a good pre-game lunch are the right move to get the day running smoothly and have enough fuel on board. Then have a light snack before the game to top off your glycogen stores.
Breakfast and lunch as usual. The evening meal timing will depend on timing of the game. If you have 3 hours between the event and dinner, have a good pre-game meal. If you only have an hour or so before the event, make your meal more like a large snack. Then eat a meal right after you finish your activity to fully recover!

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