Runners, cyclists, swimmers, wrestlers, boxers, bodybuilders -- they are all athletes. Athletes seem to operate at a level higher than us, mere mortals, who complain at the slightest sign of walking the short distance from the car park to the grocery store. Their seemingly limitless amounts of energy and tireless dedication to the sport they're in is something that we envy and yet, don't want to be in, at the same time. We, who are content, with our sluggish (compared to these demigods on the field) humdrum lives, would rather spend a lazy Saturday morning in bed than do the rounds in the oval or those laps in the pool.
Yes, athletes operate at an altogether different physical plane. And because of the rigorous demands of their sport, their nutritional needs are also way different from the rest of humanity. In fact, obtaining proper nutrition is key to making them go higher, faster, stronger in their chosen sport.
For starters, athletes need to consume more carbohydrates from such food sources as pasta, potatoes, cereals, milk and dairy. When these carbs are digested, they turn to glucose and are stored in the muscles as glycogen, ready for use during exercise. Thus, a high-carbohydrate diet allows an athlete to exercise for a longer period of time, about 90 minutes or less. For events of longer duration, a high-carbohydrate diet a couple of days before the competition should be sufficient to provide the energy an athlete needs to complete the activity.
Despite the advantages of a high-carbohydrate diet, constantly resorting to this is not recommended. Athletes also need to use up their stored body fats to fuel their routines. The longer athletes work out, the more fats they are going to use up.
Because of the constant muscle and tissue wear and tear, athletes need high amounts of protein in their diet as well. Protein can be obtained from various vegetable and animal sources. While some athletes, particularly bodybuilders, take meal replacement shakes and bars that are high in protein content, they are generally not recommended. Protein obtained from natural food sources are infinitely better and safer than those in processed foods.
Like protein, the vitamin and mineral requirement of most athletes can be met through fruit and vegetable consumption. Potassium, an important mineral in regulating muscle activity, can be obtained by eating bananas, oranges and potatoes. Calcium can be derived from dairy-rich products. Athletes with iron-deficiency are usually prescribed iron supplements.
Two or three hours before any event, athletes usually eat a pre-game meal that provides about a thousand calories. This comes mostly from complex carbohydrates like pastas, cereals, fruits and vegetables which are easily digestible. Water is also an important part of this meal. High-fat foods, however, are not included because they take a long time to pass out of the stomach.
If an athlete wants to take his game up a notch, optimum nutrition is key. When combined with an exceptional training program, he or she can go higher, faster, stronger and conquer any game.
You know the feeling. Your stomach growls and you just know you need to fill it up. But you're in the office, stuck with loads of work on your table and can't prepare a meal to save your life. Or you're rushing to work only to realize that you don't have time for a quick breakfast. You don't want to skip the most important meal of the day because you know doing so would wreck havoc on your metabolism and cause you to gain weight. What do you do in both cases? You reach for your bag and get that bar to satisfy your hunger or eat in place of breakfast. A high-protein, low-carbohydrate protein bar just saved your day!
Protein is necessary to optimum functioning and good health. If protein is lacking in the diet, growth gets stunted, the immune system gets compromised and a weakened cardiovascular and respiratory system results. To get your quick protein fix, you resort to protein bars.
Protein bars are nutritional supplements usually taken by bodybuilders or athletes to satisfy their protein needs all throughout the day. Usually made of soy or whey, protein bars also have peanuts, oats, milk and eggs as part of its ingredients. While they satisfy the body's protein needs, their high-sugar and saturated fat content makes them inappropriate as full meal replacement alternatives. For those who seek to gain muscle mass without the worry of ingesting too many calories, protein bars provide the solution.
Protein bars are best eaten an hour before and an hour after each workout. Your body needs the energy boost it gets before you do your routine. Your muscles could also use that much-needed protein these bars give for repair and recovery after your workout
Aside from athletes, protein bars also make good snack alternatives for our growing children. Giving them protein-rich snacks aid in their physical growth and development. And because our kids don't have to mix these, protein bars have gained popularity if only for their convenience. Unlike pre-packaged powdered protein drinks that need a little preparation, protein bars don't require anything else other than opening the pack and gobbling it down. Homemade protein bars are better, especially where your kids are concerned.
Most commercial protein bar preparations are chockfull of sugar. If you still want to get the same benefits minus the sugar, you can make your own protein bar at home. Start by grounding whole oats in a food processor. If you want to save yourself the hassle of this process, just buy protein powders and use them in place of the oats. Add cinnamon and nutmeg, some chopped nuts and dried fruits to the mixture. Then, add about a cup of peanut butter to the mix, making your batter resemble sticky dough. Line a 6 by 8 inch baking pan with wax paper and spoon the protein mixture into the pan. Freeze for a couple of hours. Cut into desired pieces and enjoy them wherever you go! This homemade protein bar alternative is cheap, natural and nutritious.
For nutrition on the go, protein bars are an excellent choice.
You've all heard that regular exercise and a healthy diet are part and parcel of staying fit. However, it seems that the idea of fitness nutrition is, more often than not, subordinate to exercise. What does this mean? There seems to be the mistaken notion that it's okay to eat anything as long as you burn it off afterwards. Not! This is one of the biggest lies ever propagated where fitness nutrition is concerned.
The aim of fitness nutrition is to give your body the nutrients it needs to stay strong, fit, healthy and energized throughout the day. With this in mind, it's also imperative to fill our diet with foods that give us this kind of nutrition. Eating for health requires that all food groups be represented. Remember the go, glow and grow foods your grade school teacher spent hammering into your head? Well, food groupings haven't changed much. You still need your proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. That means you need to feed your body with fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meat, dairy, whole grains and cereals. That means going natural with your food choices as well.
But that's not all there is to eating for heath. It also means eating in moderation and at the right times. Too much of anything is bad, so don't get too caught up in the high-protein low-carb diets. They only wreck havoc on your normal body processes. Eating healthy means eating the right amounts from all food groups in small portions five to six times a day. This also means not skipping breakfast. When your mother nearly force-feeds you to eat this most important meal of the day, she wasn't kidding. If you don't eat, you're starving your body and preparing it to snack on more sugar-rich and unhealthy junk later in the day.
What if you do feel the need to snack during the day? Opt for fresh fruits like bananas, pears or apples. They're chockfull of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Yogurt is also a good alternative. Not only is it rich in calcium and protein, it also has live Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria that's good for the digestive system as well.
Does that mean that all fast food is off-limits? That would be ideal? However, it's not necessarily a no-no for as long as you watch your portions and you don't do it often. But where soda is concerned, you'd do best to avoid it with your cheeseburger meal. Ask for water instead. Fruit juice? Unless you squeeze it from the fruit itself, forget it. Processed juiced drinks have more sugar than juice and you're better off with pure water.
Fitness nutrition also means minding how you eat. It's chewing your food well and taking the time to enjoy your meal for at least 20 minutes. It's eating when you're hungry, not because you're stressed or emotionally upset. It's stopping when you're already full. Finally, eating for health also means learning healthier ways of preparing foods. You need to learn how to cook foods through steaming and stir-frying instead of deep frying them. It also means stocking your pantry with healthful foods.
Eat healthy. Live healthy. That's the real essence of fitness nutrition.