Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nutrients for Busy Athletes

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Most athletes, professional and recreational, often eat relatively well but with busy lifestyles it can be very useful to be informed of a few of the key nutrients you can target for optimal health. We all know that we need to eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water and choose low fat foods but did you know you may be missing some key nutrients including, calcium, zinc, iron and essential fats? 

Calcium: Before you skip over this section, it is common to think that we all get enough calcium, yet the reality is that we need at least 3-4 servings a day to get the recommended intake.  If any of you enjoy plain black coffee and dislike yoghurt, chances are you are not getting enough calcium to achieve optimal bone health for your training load which can result in bone loss and and increased risk of stress fractures.  If you can't have dairy, try incorporating calcium enriched soy products to boost your dairy intake.

Zinc: Zinc is an often forgotten but essential nutrient that performs a number of important roles in the body including healing, immune function, and hormone production.  Try lean red meat, whole grain breads, breakfast cereals and shellfish.

Iron: Athletes can be susceptible to iron deficiency anemia (particularly women or endurance runners), therefore its extra important to ensure you get the optimal amounts of iron in your body.  Iron is the building block of hemoglobin which carries oxygen throughout the body.  When someone is anemic the muscles are starved for oxygen and this can negatively affect performance.  Lean red meat should be consumed 3-4 times a week, while this may seem like a lot, you don't need large portions to reap the benefits.

Essential Fats: Don't be afraid of fat!  Essential fatty acids (EFA) can help maintain healthy joints, regulate your metabolism and reduce inflammation.  Good fats can be found in all sorts of different foods including avocado, fatty fish, olive oil, nuts and tofu.

Keep in mind that balanced nutrition is an essential for everyone but is extra important for those who want to excel as a competitive athlete.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Libin D. Fighting Fat Phobia. Black Belt. December 2011;49(12):34.
2. Mansfield B. Iron for Health and Fitness. Skitrax. Spring2012 2012;22(4):49.
3. Micheletti A, Rossi R, Rufini S. Zinc status in athletes: relation to diet and exercise./Niveau du zinc chez l'athlete en relation avec l'alimentation et l 'exercice pratique. Sports Medicine. 2001;31(8):577-582.
4. Nguyen V. Calcium for Athletes to Improve Bone Strength and Health. NSCA's Performance Training Journal. November 2010;9(6):11-13.
5. Seebohar B. OMEGA-3 FATS: ESSENTIAL TO HEALTH. Triathlon Life. Winter2009 2009;12(1):39.
6. Woodward G. Do you get enough calcium?. Australian Orienteer. June 2010;(158):25.

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