Tips for keeping your body fueled


Written by Kyle J. Cassas, MD, team physician and Primary Care Sports Medicine Specialist with the Greenville Health System and Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas

Photography by Brian Hodes of VeloImages

Athletes of all skill levels and ages—whether it be a high school, middle school, collegiate, or professional—all have unique demands upon their body and the need for adequate nutrition and fluid consumption. Are you feeling tired or sluggish, noticing it takes longer to recover from games or work-outs? The quick and easy solution may be as simple as improving your nutrition and hydration, as well as getting an adequate amount of rest or recovery time.

One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of performing at the highest level in your sport relates to the proper fueling of your body with a focused nutrition and hydration plan. Think of the food that you eat as the fuel or “engine” for your body.

The biggest barrier I often hear patients report as it relates to proper nutrition is lack of time for planning and preparation, along with difficulty implementing and then adhering to an effective nutrition program.

Your mom was right when she told you not to skip breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Your body needs to be charged and ready for the day, your training or competition. Breakfast should be your largest meal of the day. Make sure to include the proper amount of carbohydrates, along with 12 to 16 ounces of water.

Fuel your body with carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are critical and essential to an athlete’s maximal performance and are the preferred fuel during exercise. Athletes should not be consuming a “low carb” diet. Carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, and fruits and vegetables should make up approximately 60 percent of total calories consumed (about 350 grams of a 2200 calorie diet). This is the most efficient energy source, replenishing muscle glycogen stores utilized during exercise. Carbohydrates help you avoid hitting “the wall” and feeling sluggish during workouts.

Improve performance with protein.

Protein is also an important aspect of an athlete’s diet and should make up about 15 percent (about 80 to 100 grams) of your diet. Good protein sources include meats such as chicken, turkey, lean red meat, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and beans. Protein is utilized by our bodies to help stimulate muscle repair and growth.

Eat early, often, and balanced.

You should eat something within an hour of waking in the morning and then about every three hours afterward to help fuel your body while keeping your energy levels high. Utilize between-meal snacks such as fruit, yogurt, nuts, and energy bars.

Stay hydrated and avoid too much caffeine.

Fluid consumption is critical to proper performance and the avoidance of injuries and problems such as heat illness. Even as little as one to two percent dehydration can have a negative impact on performance. General guidelines include consuming 16 ounces of fluid/water two hours prior to participation, and five to 10 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. For training or events lasting less than one hour, water is usually adequate. For longer events or practices, a sport drink with carbohydrates should be considered. Also be cautious with the amount of caffeinated beverages consumed, which can also contribute to dehydration.

Building the perfect meal means finding the right amount or balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and good fats in your diet. Making good food choices can have a significant and positive impact on your performance.

Useful Resources include:

NCAA website: nutrition and performance

American College of Sports Medicine:

Products used by the pros.

Holowesko|Citadel has used 1st Endurance products for supplements and hydration for years.1st Endurance relies on careful scientific research to create products for serious endurance athletes.

For nutrition during training rides and races, the team relies on honey-based energy products from Honey Stinger, which uses wholesome, organic, non-GMO ingredients rich in carbohydrates and antioxidants.