Nutrition and Health Information

Nutrition and Health Information for Student Athletes

Balanced Diet and Nutrition

A well balanced diet will provide all the nutritional and caloric needs of an individual. Since all athletes are constantly burning off calories and breaking down tissue, the food that they need is one that will supply all the nutrients necessary for growth, repair and energy. The foods in a well balanced diet fall within four major groups: milk group, meat group, fruit/veggie group, and grain group.

These food groups fulfill the body's need for protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, which are the basic nutrients needed by the body. For athletes (such as soccer, hockey, lacrosse, etc), carbohydrates would be the major source of intake, at least 50%, followed by protein and fat intake. For sports that are more short bout designed (such as sprints in track, etc), the majority should be protein followed by carbohydrates and fat intake. On the average, the basic diet should consist of approximately 10-20% protein, 20-30% fat and 50-70% carbohydrates. Protein is found throughout the body and serves numerous functions:

  • Maintain and repair body tissue
  • Make hemoglobin that fights infection and disease
  • To supply energy during starvation
  • Form antibodies that fight infection and disease

Fat is also found through the body and serves several functions:

  • Insulates nerves and body tissue
  • Forms the cell walls
  • Protects the internal organs
  • Concentrated source of energy

As mentioned earlier carbohydrate intake should be about 50-70% for the athlete. Minimum protein intake should be .8 grams per kilogram body weight, but it has been recommended that the athlete under heavy stress, both physically and emotionally, take in approximately 2.0 grams per kilogram body weight. The remaining calories should be manipulated by fat intake.

Adjustments in caloric intake are most easily manipulated by fat intake as fat supplies more than twice the energy value per gram as either carbohydrates or protein. Fat contains 9 Kcal per gram as compared to carbohydrates or protein which supply 4 Kcal per gram each.

Carbohydrates, as mentioned, should be the main staple in the diet since they spare protein from being used as energy and facilitate the use of fats as energy. Once the carbohydrate sources are drained from the body, fats can no longer be used and the athlete experiences exhaustion.