By Tara Simpson, RD, CSSD, LDN
and Gina Barusevicius, MA, RD, LDN
Whether your child is an elite athlete or an exercise
enthusiast, nutrition can make a difference in his or
her plan for fitness. Although it can’t work miracles,
proper nutrition throughout the year can allow your
athlete to train more effectively, feel better, and
positively contribute to his or her overall physical
condition and in turn, maximize performance.
When preparing and planning for a training program,
nutrition for performance must be taken as seriously
as training. Variety, moderation, and balance are key.
Adequate calories, carbohydrate, protein, and fat are
essential for the athlete’s diet. Missing any
one nutrient or food group can eventually affect performance.
The best muscle fuels are carbohydrates, either simple
or complex. Simple carbohydrates, such as fruit or fruit
juices and complex carbohydrate such as whole wheat
bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and other grains, provide
not only energy but also important vitamins and minerals.
An athlete’s diet should consist of 55-70% carbohydrate.
Inadequate carbohydrate intake will lead to muscle fuel
depletion and fatigue. Therefore, eating high carbohydrate
foods can assist athletes in sustaining optimal fuel
levels necessary for training and competition.