Amy, I am a track and cross country coach at a high school here in NY. Being a male athlete on all male teams I'm not used to dealing with female athletes and the physical issues they deal with. I am wondering if there is any kind of food these female athletes should eat in order to keep them feeling more up beat during those few days or that week. Thanks for the help. Bryan~

Both male and female athletes have similar nutrition requirements when participating in sports. The most important part of an athlete’s diet is water! Make sure your athletes are taking more than 8 cups of water each day. Be sure to encourage fluid intake before, during, and after the sporting event. Remind athletes to drink water even if they are not thirsty. This will help to control body temperature and replace fluid that is lost as sweat.

Achieving balance between carbohydrates, protein, and fat intake can help athletes optimize performance. Carbohydrates include pasta, cereal, bread, rice, fruits and some vegetables. Approximately 55-60% of the diet should come from carbohydrates. In short, your body will turn the sugar/starches in carbohydrates into energy (if needed during an athletic event) or they can be stored in the liver and muscle as glycogen. Carbohydrates eaten consistently several days before exercise or competition will allow athletes to have stored glycogen, which they can utilize if an athletic event will last more than an hour. Protein is another very important part of an athletes diet. Protein can be found in meat, eggs, dairy products, beans, and nuts. Protein should make up approximately 12-15% of the diet. Athletes should be encouraged to eat adequate amounts of protein to help with muscle growth and repair of tissues. Fat intake (such as that from red meat, cheese, eggs, vegetable oil, etc) should be limited to less than 30% of daily calories. Fat is an important part of the diet, but I would encourage athletes avoid eating high fat meals before they compete.

I suggest that your athletes eat balanced meals and not skip meals. You may encourage a meal that is high in carbohydrates before they compete (such as fruit, fruit juice, bagels or yogurt) and avoid sugary foods/drinks. It is also important to remember that female athletes need to obtain adequate amounts of calcium (milk, yogurt, soy products) and iron (meat, fortified breakfast cereals, legumes).

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