The world is an orb of life. In its limited space all life forms compete to hold their own position. As Darwin concluded in his theory of evolution, ‘only the strong and most advanced survive, while the weak perish and are pushed aside.’; Evolution, the theory we use today to fuel our need to win and succeed in any organized competition. It is this drive that results in the vigorous preparation athletes’ go through to become superior among their race.
To thrive, we must understand that proper nutrition is the basis any athlete must build from in order to achieve peak physical performance.
Prior to strenuous activity it is imperative that the body has the required amounts of nutrients to carry out an activity. At the latest reference it is recommended that a person consume an average of 2200 mg of calories, 60 g of fat, less than 5000 IU of vitamin A, more than 60 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin D, more than 2000 mg of potassium, 2000 mg of sodium, 65 g of protein, 1.5 mg of thiamin, 1.7 mg of riboflavin, 20 mg of niacin, and 18 mg of iron. Nutritionists of today simplify this into an equation of 40% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 30% protein that the entire day’s meals should be divided into.
The total calorie intake must increase for active persons from 2200 to 2200 plus the total number used while exercising. This will ensure replenishment of the body’s system.
With the wide variety of athletic competitions, the specific meal a competitor may need to eat to benefit themselves differs widely, as do the events. The last meal or two are extremely important in both their time of consumption and content. It is these two factors that can cause a person to make or break their day just by their choices. Experience plays a large role since one must attempt many different pre-competition meals before they will find one that suits the individual.
For most, the high carbohydrate diet is the choice; packing in as many as possible since it is such a huge energy source. Also, judging by time, one must decide the size of the meal. To digest a large meal takes 3-4 hours, a small meal 2-3 hours, liquid meal 1-2 hours, and a small snack takes less than an hour. A person may even find a burst of caffeine to be helpful or may just want a feeling of ease by not eating anything at all. Without practice and numerous trials the athlete may run into a problem by eating too large of a meal just before exercise and feeling sluggish. There is also a possibility that by not eating properly the athlete may become dizzy and tired.
If anyone is serious about finding the ‘ultimate pre-event food’; they should constantly be testing and refining different meals. This preparation of choice should get great attention since training methods are not as specific as eating habits.
During an event digestion is 70% to 80% of its original speed. Therefore it is not wise to eat any regular sized meal while participating in activities unless they are extremely lengthy such as hiking. For the most part liquids or foods high
in water content are your best bet for helping the system as long as they are non alcoholic. Alcohol is a dehydrator.
Fluids taken in will: transport glucose to
working muscles, eliminate waste products, eliminate metabolic byproducts, and dictate heat through sweating. The most beneficial drink is orange juice or most any juice which will not only restore water and calories, but also many other nutrients that Gatorade or cola can not do. A good guide for fluid replacement would be 8-10 ounces for every 20 min of strenuous activity, even though this
may only be a half or a quarter of what you have lost it will help recovery time. Small nutrient packed snacks will also prove beneficial to you during exercise.
Once the event is completed your body still requires loads of lost products to be replenished. Your first priority should be the fluid loss that you were unable to keep up with during the exercise.