An athlete puts an enormous amount of strain on their body both physically and nutritionally. Eating a variety of foods can help supply the nutrients an athlete requires. Here are some nutrients to be mindful of if you are an athlete:
Calories – Signs of deficiency include weight loss, fatigue, and reduced performance. Increase intake of healthy, nutrient-rich foods and monitor your weight as exercise or training may increase calorie needs by as much as 1,000-1,500 calories a day. Avoid bars containing high-fructose corn syrup, chocolate or candy coatings, marshmallows or other candy-type ingredients, and unpronounceable ingredients.
Water – Signs of deficiency include dehydration, weakness, dryness, loss of performance, and thirst. Make sure that you are taking in lots of water before, during, and after endurance activities. You should aim for about 16 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during exercise.
Carbohydrates – Signs of deficiency include weakness, inability to continue endurance activity, irritability, weight loss. Eating whole grains, vegetables and dried fruits can help meet you carbohydrate needs.
Protein – Signs of deficiency include muscle wasting, fatigue, poor healing, and frequent infections. Good sources of protein include meat, dairy, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds.
Electrolytes – Signs of deficiency include dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and muscle cramping. Consume mineral-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, leafy greens, bananas; sensible use of sea salt and other seasoning salts. Electrolyte replacement mix or beverage can be very beneficial as well and easily added to water.
Iron – Signs of deficiency include paleness, fatigue, reduced ability to exercise, frequent infections, brittle nails, decreased appetite, irritability, sore tongue or throat, thinning and hair/hair loss. Foods that are good sources of iron include meat, iron-fortified breads and cereals, beans, tofu, dried fruits, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables. If you aren’t meeting your iron needs you may to take an iron supplement. Consult with your doctor first.
Magnesium – Signs of deficiency include agitation/anxiety, restless leg syndrome, fatigue, insomnia, poor memory, and confusion. Eat leafy greens, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans, and legumes. Look into a supplement if you aren’t getting enough of these magnesium rich foods.
B vitamins – Signs of deficiency include anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, difficulty maintaining balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, soreness of the mouth or tongue.
Foods high in Bs include whole grains, dairy products, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, beans, and legumes. You may want to consider B-complex supplement daily.
Calcium – Signs of deficiency include bone density loss, and muscle spasm. Green leafy vegetables, almonds, dairy products, tofu, tahini, sardines with bones are all good sources of calcium. Aim for 1,200-1,500 mg per day from food and supplements combined.