Proper diet is of utmost importance for every individual and athletes are no exception. This is important as it is a sure way in which athletic performance can be boosted.Athletes can be assured of peak performance while they are exercising if they eat the right and healthy food. Sportsmen benefit most from the carbohydrates that are stored in their bodies. Exercises and other physical activities have the ability to increase the need for proteins in the body. Nutrition misinformation can be quite disastrous to an athlete whereas the right nutrition can be of great help (Anderson, Young & Prior).
For starters, carbohydrates should make up about 70 percent of the calories that the team takes in the last three games before they are scheduled to play a game. For an athlete whose daily calorie consumption is 3,000 is required to consume close to 500 grams of carbohydrates; it is important, however, to spread this requirement over several meals in the course of the day. As a rule, it should not be eaten at once. It is important to note that, when hockey players are keeping a nutritious diet that is also high in energy, a few days before the day they are scheduled to play the game, will enable them to store up some energy. Another way that the performance of the team can be boosted is by ensuring that the athletes prehydrate their bodies during the three days that precede the game. Each member of the team should drink more water than usual; t is recommended that an athlete who weighs about 160 pounds should consume about a dozen 10-ounce glasses of water each day. The importance of staying hydrated is underlined by the fact that muscles contain a lot of water and even the slightest degree of dehydration may significantly affect the performance of the muscles in a negative way. Muscles that are dried up tend to be weak (Dr.Sears).
On the match day, the athletes should all enjoy a pre-game meal that should be sure to boost their performance. It is important for this particular meal to be low in fat; this is due to the fact that fatty foods will generally take a longer time to digest. The consequence of this will be that the athletes may go to thepitch while still feeling full. The meal taken on the day of the game should be taken three hours before kick-off. It should ideally be high in complex carbohydrates, which should make up about 70 percent of the calorie requirements, the amount of protein should be medium and it should make up about 20 percent of the calorie requirements. Finally, the meal should be low in fat; only about 10 percent of the calories should be fat. Protein is important as it stimulates insulin that enables the muscles to utilize glucose in a more efficient manner; furthermore, it also plays an integral role in energizing the brain. The fat works to slow the absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestines; this enables the sugar to enter the bloodstream at a rate that is steady (Dr. Sears).
Carbohydrates produce more energy than fats per unit of oxygen that is consumed. Complex carbohydrates can be derived from foods that include lasagna, potatoes,grain products, cereals and spaghetti. Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, can be found in milk, fruits and honey. During the process of digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is then stored as glycogen in the muscles. Carbohydrate utilization tends to increase with increase in work intensity.
Some of the foods that can be prepared for the team before the game include: cereal or oatmeal, carrot juice and fruit. The athletes’ can also eat a whole grain bread sandwich that also has peanut butter and jelly. Another option is whole grain pasta with a sauce that should be low on fat. Low fat yoghurt may also accompany the meal. The team members should eat as well as drink just before and also during the game. It has been proven that consumption of sugars, for instance, sucrose, honey or candy moments before the exercising translates into reduced performance. This can be explained by the resultant insulin rush that is further compounded by the fluctuating effects of high as well as low blood sugar. It is important to ensue that the athletes replenish fluids and food as the game is going on. The team members should be given quick energy carbohydrates, which have a characteristic high glycemic index. These are carbs that are capable of raising the blood sugar levels albeit quickly. These foods include carrots, raisins, bananas and orange juice (Medline Plus).
The athletes should always remember to rehydrate their bodies after the match. After strenuous exercise, the bodies of the players have to be replenished with water, electrolytes and carbohydrates that were utilized during the match. Immediately after the game, the athletes should drink about two glasses of water. They should then indulge in foods that are rich in carbohydrates. They should make a point of eating slowly to avoid cramps, heartburn and nausea. These are occasioned by overloading of the intestines with a lot of food and drinks immediately after a strenuous activity. The importance of rehydrating the bodies with plain water at first helps to prevent fatigue, abdominal upset and cramps that may be experienced after the game (Dr. Sears).
Taking into consideration that a hockey match takes several hours, the athletes may benefit from the carbohydrates that are found in sports drinks. It may be necessary to go for a sports drink that has 15-18 grams carbs in 8 ounces. Drinks that have a higher content of carbohydrates should be avoided at all costs because they may have the effect of delaying water absorption and this may result in nausea, cramps, dehydration or even diarrhea. Given the huge variety of sports drinks currently in the market, it would be best if the drinks are tried out during the practice sessions as opposed to sampling them out on match day.Electrolytes are nutrients that have a significant influence in the body’s fluid balance and are vital for the functioning of the muscles and nerves. In sports drinks the electrolytes that are most commonly added are potassium and sodium. Given the long duration of hockey matches, the replacement of electrolytes is necessary more so, if the game is taking place on a hot summer afternoon. (Sports Nutrition).
Three days before the game, there are a number of options that the athletes can have for breakfast. They can have about 8 ounces of low fat milk or orange juice, a medium banana, a table spoon of jelly and a slice of toast. For lunch, the athletes can have a slice of ham, an ounce of Swiss cheese, a slice of tomato, a leaf of lettuce, 8 ounces of skimmed milk and two cookies. For dinner, they may have about three cups of spaghetti, mushrooms, half a cup of tomato sauce, a tablespoon of parmesan cheese, four slices of French bread, a slice of angel food cake, a quarter cup of sliced strawberries and half a cup of ice cream. For snacks, grape juice, about 16 ounces and about 6 fig cookies are ideal (Anderson, Young & Prior 2010).
Nutrition is important, because it determines the success of any athlete. The energy to play comes from the food that the athletes consume. The food also provides the necessary nutrients for muscle growth (All about Health)
Meal Plan for Athletic Varsity Level
Meal one: before the work out session. 1 piece of fruit
Meal two Post-Workout
Meal Three: Lunch
Meal Four: Snack Before Practice
Meal Five: Dinner
Meal Six: Evening Snack
Nutrition can indeed boost athletic performance. Eating the right food in the correct quantities can go a long way in ensuring that athletes are able to perform at their best. It is vital for all teams to have proper diet plans to ensure the players are always at their best level of fitness and also to take care of their health issues. The importance of fluids in the diet of athletes cannot be overstated. This is because failure to do so might lead to dehydration. Sports drinks also play an important role, especially because they help to replenish electrolytes in the body.