Category Archives: Sports Medicine

Diet Menu for Athletes

To get a fit body, you need to have good metabolism, which can be achieved by keeping your body active. This is the general equation for common person. However, for those who indulge in a great deal of physical activity like athletes, it is important that they eat less and get more energy. They cannot afford to have those heavy and really filling meals. Also, they cannot compromise on the essential nutrients and the energy which they need. Striking a balance between all the essential nutrients and carbohydrates, then becomes really difficult.

Nutritional and Healthy Menu for Runners and Athletes

It goes without saying that the diet for an athlete/runner must provide him/her with enough energy. The core of fitness and nutrition for these people is the same all across the globe.

Essential Intake

-Drinking Water
-Focus on complex carbohydrates
-Protein intake ranging from moderate to high
-High or moderate fiber
-Other essential nutrients – vitamins and minerals.

Of course, the diet is not restricted to just the aforementioned aspects, however, these are the fundamentals of an athlete’s diet. There are different aspects of the activity levels and energy required.

Diet for that Explosive Strength
Sustained energy is not needed for sprinters, triathlon athletes, and jumpers. They need not rack their brains about prolonged and slow-digesting carbohydrates. So, athletes who are into explosive activity, need the energy at a particular time only and not throughout a long period of time. In such cases, creatine-rich foods should be included in the diet. It immediately boosts the depot of instant energy in the muscle.

Diet Menu for Recovery
Recovery time after exercising is very crucial. Nutrition for athletes should be chalked out keeping this factor in mind. Eating within two hours after the workout is crucial for an athlete, as his/her muscles need to recover, and glycogen needs to be restored. Eating within first 30 minutes is even better. A correct balance should be maintained between the protein and carbohydrates in the diet. The carbohydrates to protein ratio in a meal should be 3:1. 30 – 90 grams of high quality complex carbohydrates and 10 – 30 grams of protein should be included in the diet. Ideally, whey isolate is perfect for ensuring a speedy recovery of the muscles.

Sample Menu

Breakfast

1 orange
1 boiled egg
1 oz./ 30 g wholemeal bread
2 tsp. low-fat spread

Lunch

3 oz./90 g tuna fish
Salad of lettuce, onions and 1 tomato
2 celery sticks
1 oz./ 30 g beetroot
2 tsp. salad cream
2 crisp bread slices
1 apple

Dinner

3 oz./ 90 g chicken without skin cook in casserole
3 oz./90 g carrots
4 oz./120 g onions
2 oz./60 g parsnips
3 oz./90 g turnips
3 oz./90 g jacket potato
4 oz./120 g cooked green vegetable
1 pear

This was just an example, as to how the menu for an athlete should be. However, it can be modified according to personal requirements. It needs a conscious effort to chalk out a diet plan, as per the requirements of an athlete. It can be best managed by an athlete himself. Nevertheless, a brief description about what an athletes diet should be, is described here.

-65% complex carbohydrates including vegetables, fruits, and grains either raw or cooked
-10 to 15% fat from vegetables
-10% protein through meats or fish or fowl or lamb
-Tofu
-Vitamins, minerals, and oxygen-enhancing nutrients, which include a formula containing potassium, magnesium, alpha ketoglutarate, inosine, malic acid, ferulic acid, trimethylglycine, and coenzyme Q10, can be consumed before a sports event.
-Vitamin C with bioflavonoids
-600 mg calcium and 400 mg magnesium
-Zinc and vitamin A approximately 30 mg per day
-2 cod liver oil capsules in a day

Last, but not the least, processed food should be strictly avoided. Also, fruits, nuts, and vegetables should be included in every meal of the day.

Performance Anxiety in Sports

The world of sports has drastically changed from being the entertaining realm, to an ambit of pugnacity. In a competitive game, all physical and mental limits are stretched, providing the inevitable gap for anxiety to fill in. The pressure to retain the top spot and dominate the sport can get to you.

The coordinated movement that is required for athletic events becomes tough if your body is in a tense state. Certain amount of worry is okay and can help your performance, but too much of it can induce negative thoughts, affecting your self-confidence. If your performance during practice sessions and competitions displays a significant difference, anxiety may be affecting your performance. Although you may not totally get the better of it, there are many things you can try to reduce anxiety.

What is Performance Anxiety?

The feeling of restlessness and nervousness gradually leading to self-doubt is known as performance anxiety. It is common in stage artists and sportspersons, who are required to present themselves and their skills to a large crowd. It is believed that the pressure of attaining excellence as marked by the audience is one of the greatest triggers that causes a sportsperson to choke.

Types of Sports Anxiety
According to ‘Athletic Insight’, a journal of sports psychology, anxiety can be classified in two ways: trait anxiety and state anxiety. State anxiety is situational stress induced by situations in the game. A sportsperson’s autonomic nervous system is aroused in this state, which is the natural reaction of any individual. On the other hand, trait anxiety can be thought of as a world view that an individual uses when coping with stress.
In sports, individuals who are state anxious and low on the trait anxiety in tough situations, often deliver good performances consistently. On the other hand, athletes who have higher levels of trait anxiety, added with state anxiety, tend to perform below expectations.
What Causes Performance Anxiety?
Various psychologists have tried to figure out why is it during high tension situations that our brain fails to cope up and leads to a detrimental effect on our performance. Researches have shown that expert athletes behave like amateurs under pressure.
Unfamiliar Environment
During training and preparing for any competition, an athlete focuses on improving skills in a familiar environment. All the efforts taken and practice done are, thus, stored in the procedural memory. However, in a real competitive setup, the conscious awareness of unfamiliar grounds and the presence of a crowd corrupts the memory of the practiced game. It is also found that with more involved and encouraging crowds, the pressure to achieve the best is accentuated.
Wrong Perception of Jitters
A reason for career-ending bout of anxiousness is the perception of pre-game jitters. Our body releases certain hormones to accommodate for the upcoming exciting situation, which induce quickening of the heartbeat and sweaty palms. These signs are often misinterpreted by an athlete as fear and lack of ability to perform. Over thinking a situation and trying to control the practiced movements can trigger and result in a full-fledged panic attack.
Undermining Oneself
While training, some athletes set unrealistic targets for themselves. Failure to achieve those targets is perceived as lack of skill and puts the athlete in self-denial of one’s own improvement. Even if they are fully prepared for an event, they tend to underestimate their capabilities. Such reactions can convert any professional player into a novice, thus, derailing their performance.
How to Overcome Performance Anxiety
With many elite players falling prey to the adverse psychology of pre-game anxiousness, sports authorities and teams have started taking measures to contain the effects to minimum.
Distracting Oneself
For every sportsperson, it is very essential to recognize the jitters felt before, or during the game, and accept that these jitters are absolutely natural. One of the best ways to overcome such a situation is distraction. As soon as you have the awareness of anxiety setting in, distract your attention to something else―may be singing or asking a fellow sportsperson about something that is not related to the game.
One example is from the final moments of 1989 Super Bowl. Joe Montana, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, recognized the pressure his teammates were facing. Instead of giving in to the anxiety, he fought it back with distraction. He recognized John Candy, a Canadian actor and comedian, in the crowd and called out to him. This simple gesture completely changed the focus point of the team. They forgot about the pressure and played a wonderful game.
Winning Over Anxiety
A sportsperson whose mind interprets anxiety as a debacle often ends up losing. The dominant and top players of the game convert their anxiety into excitement, which stimulates the positive hormones, resulting in winning performances. They take anxiety arousal as a facilitator to come up with a better performance.
Small Effective Steps
~ Practice, practice, and practice.
~ Cut down on caffeine and sugar. Have a carbohydrate-rich meal before the game to preserve energy.
~ Focus on what you can do rather than what might go wrong on the field.
~ Always try to practice in competition-like settings.
~ Avoid thoughts of self-doubt. Think about your capabilities and strengths.
Sports psychology has become an area of deep study and research. The competition, especially at the international level, has induced a great deal of anxiety-related problems. The game is played on two fields; the playing field and the mental field. For example, sportsmen, like Rafael Nadal (lawn tennis), Michael Phelps (swimmer), or the US basketball team are at the helm of their affairs, not because of their talent alone. It is their balanced mental state, which gives them an edge over their equally, or perhaps more talented athletes.

Experts believe, and it has been proved, that talent and ability can take you only to a certain level in sports. In fact, after you cross a certain threshold of performance, talent becomes almost an ‘useless’ virtue to possess, because it breeds pride, complacency, and hence, ignorance. It is only the hardworking and the most stable minds with only a spark of talent, who rule sports.

Performing to the best of one’s abilities has become more relevant in today’s sport, because of the extensive media exposure. Sports are at the peak of their popularity all throughout the world, cutting across the barriers of richness, or poverty, nationality, race, or religion. In order to sustain the tremendous expectations of the fans and also to maintain a high ranking in the international arena, it is important to perform well. Self-confidence, strong resolve, humility to accept defeat, and experience are the best tools to counter the effects of anxiety. Anxiety is not a disease that a sportsperson can get rid of once and for all. It has to be used as a booster to improve performance so as to achieve sporting glory.

Proper Nutrition for Athletes

The term ‘athlete’ is used in a general, as well as specific sense. In general, it means any sports person – one who regularly participates in sports. More specifically, the word is used to describe participants in track and field events, such as events involving jumping, running, and throwing. Athletes have above average physical abilities. To achieve and maintain these abilities, they need to undertake a vigorous exercise routine, proper dietary intake, and adequate rest. They need to be very disciplined about all these aspects. Neglect of any one component can result in a below-par performance.

While food is what we eat, nutrition is what we need. Although the nutrition requirements vary according to the event in which the athlete participates, there are certain general guidelines regarding the diet of athletes. A healthy diet includes the following elements.

-Carbohydrates
-Fats
-Proteins
-Vitamins
-Minerals
-Fibers
-Water

Carbohydrates are the chief providers (about 50%) of energy during the early stages of a medium level exercise, and when the exercise is of a short duration (about 1 to 1.5 hours). Carbohydrates provide more energy, for the same amount of oxygen consumed, as compared to fats. Oxygen is obtained from inhaled air; thus burning of carbohydrates results in less exhaustion. Carbohydrates are available in honey, fruit, milk, cereals, potatoes, lasagna, other grain products, and sugar.

Fats are the main energy providers during long duration exercises; free fatty acids supply half of the energy expended during moderate exercise (the other half being provided by carbohydrates). Fats are a concentrated source of energy and their use in providing energy helps avoid the use of protein for the same purpose. This is useful since protein is required for the growth of tissues.

Proteins are the building blocks of the body, and perform the task of building and repairing tissue and muscles. They, along with carbohydrates and fats, provide energy and play a significant role in strengthening the immune system. The intake of proteins may have to be increased for an athlete. However, excessive intake of proteins results in increased water requirement for eliminating nitrogen through urine, thus leading to dehydration. Extra protein intake also results in a higher metabolic rate that requires more oxygen.

Minerals are an important constituent of an athlete’s diet. Potassium is one of the essential minerals that regulates muscle activity. Potassium-rich foods like oranges, bananas, and potatoes provide enough quantity of the mineral. However, excessive intake leads to hyperkalemia, thereby causing muscle weakness and palpitations.

Iron is required for the formation of hemoglobin and therefore in carrying oxygen. It is contained in meat, poultry, fish, and some vegetarian diets as well. Excessive intake of iron can lead to constipation. Calcium is essential for building strong teeth and bones, and zinc is required for normal growth and for energy production in muscle cells. Dairy products are a good source of calcium. A normal diet is enough to replenish the loss of sodium due to sweating. Excessive sodium intake should be avoided.

Vitamins assist in better absorption of iron and play an important role in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Fruits and vegetables in general, contain vitamins. Fibers keep the bowels regular and reduce blood cholesterol. Vitamins act as antioxidants, thereby preventing cell damage. Athletes are more vulnerable to cell damage as they inhale more oxygen.

And last but not the least, water. Water levels directly affect fluidity of blood which transports nutrients, and therefore energy, inside the body. It also regulates the body temperature. Low temperature fluids should be preferred as a source of water as they are absorbed quickly. It is better to consume water at regular intervals during the day and not wait until the thirst makes itself felt, because by then, the athlete is exhausted. This is in addition to the ad hoc consumption during exercise.

Apart from the nutritional requirements, certain dietary practices are of great help. To start the day on a high metabolism and keep the hunger in check, it’s necessary to have a healthy and adequate breakfast. Ideally, five meals should be eaten daily. This spreads out the intake, helps digestion, and keeps the energy levels high. Post-exercise meals aid in quick recovery of lost energy. Also, it is advisable to stay away from canned and fried foods.

Proper nutrition goes a long way in determining the output potential of an athlete. It’s one of the most important factors that will determine his or her success story.