An Athlete’s Fuel

by Chrissy on January 26, 2014

A balanced nutrition plan that includes all the food groups promotes high-quality health and nourishment for our bodies and brains. Although every food group is vital, carbohydrates provide the most fuel for your muscles. Each person is different when it comes to his or her carbohydrate needs. For instance, a 125-pound (45kg) female athlete may need to consume 5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight, which would mean she would need to consume 225 grams of carbohydrates per day. This varies greatly among male and female athletes and their sport. Consult with your dietitian to figure out the amount of carbohydrates that are necessary for you and your unique body and brain.

When your body stores carbohydrates, it stores them as glycogen. The quicker and higher the intensity of your workout, the more glycogen is used. When you are participating in a longer and lower intensity activity, your body is going to use more fat and less glycogen for fuel. Different activities require different sources and amounts of fuel from the body.

There are two types of carbohydrates, those that are more nutrient rich like fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes, bread, and low-fat milk and yogurt and those that are less nutrient rich such as candy, soda, and cookies. Both types have alike abilities to fuel your muscles, but different abilities to supply your body with the important vitamins and minerals it needs.

One of the biggest myths among dieters is that carbohydrates are fattening to our bodies. This is false; eating excess calories on a daily basis if not burned as fuel will lead to weight gain typically in the form of body fat. Carbohydrates provide you with the energy you need to finish a workout or even to start one. They also help repair your body after a workout. In order for your body to repair itself, you need nutrient-rich carbohydrates like a glass of low-fat chocolate milk rather than a chocolate bar.  When choosing carbohydrates, it is best to pick fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk and yogurt, and whole grains 80% of the time.

-Macy Focken is a junior at Arizona State University and will be graduating in Fall 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition with a focus on dietetics. She has completed an associate’s degree in science at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Rock Against Hunger, and the Student Nutrition Counsel. Her goal is to become a Registered Dietitian and obtain a master’s degree in nutrition.

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