Nutrition and Health

Preventing Injuries and Health Concerns

The keys to remaining healthy and uninjured during your training are to:

Sleep ● Stretch ● Hydrate ● Eat Well

Sleep: Athletes of this age and activity level should receive between eight and nine hours of sleep per night to allow the body time to recover.

Stretch: Stretching and strength exercises should not only occur at practice but should be part of an athlete’s evening and morning routine (before bed/after waking up).

Hydrate: Drink eight (8 oz.) glasses of water every day. This will make sure you keep functioning like a well-oiled machine.

Eat Well: Eating a well balanced diet with proper nutrient intake will keep an athlete’s body energy levels high. Protein is the only nutrient that helps rebuild muscle and maintain your immune system.

Carbohydrate Requirements - 60% of your diet
60% of your diet, approximately 2100 calories, should be carbohydrates. A majority of your carbs, at least 1700 calories, should be complex carbohydrates found in unrefined sugars and starches of vegetables and fruits. Keep highly processed and refined carbs (table sugar, bleached flour) to a minimum.

Here are some excellent sources of carbohydrates:

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Grapefruit, Greens, Lettuce, Orange, Pumpkin, Spinach, Squash, Tomatoes, Apple, Applesauce, Apricots, Asparagus, Bean sprout, Blueberries, Celery, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Green beans, Orange Juice, Potatoes, Beans, Cherries, Corn, Mushrooms, Nectarine, Pear, Plums, Prune Juice, Rhubarb, Sauerkraut, Tangerine, Tomato Juice, Banana, Cantaloupe, Grapefruit Juice, Grape Juice, Grapes, Peach, Pineapple, Prune, Raisins, Strawberry, Watermelon, Milk

· Carbohydrates are our primary, most efficient and cheapest source of energy.
· Milk is not only an excellent source of carbs, but it is also a good source of protein.
· Eat vegetables lightly processed or raw for best nutrition.

Keep highly processed foods to a minimum as many of them contain high amounts of fat and represent calories without nutrition.

Examples of these bad foods are:

Sugared cereals, Potato chips, Snack foods, Ice cream, Fried pastries, Cake, Cookies, French fries, Candy bars

Carbohydrate Replacement
The thirty minutes right after you run is when your insulin levels are elevated. If you consume 70-100 grams of carbohydrates within that period it will greatly reduce recovery and carbohydrate replacement time. So bring a sports drink, power bar or something else to take advantage of this crucial time.

Protein Requirement - 20% of your diet
20% of your diet, approximately 700 calories should be protein which is needed for tissue growth and repair.

Here are some excellent sources of protein:

Cheddar Cheese, Lean Meat, Legumes, Halibut, Navy Beans, Lima Beans, Kidney Beans, Haddock, Perch, Flounder, Peas, Chicken, Soybeans, Turkey, Peanuts, Tuna, Salmon, Eggs, Lunch meats, Lamb, Shrimp, Clams, Hamburger, Peanut Butter

· It is best to prepare fish, poultry, meat, by broiling or baking, not frying.
· Limit consumption of eggs to four per week.
· Eat more poultry and fish than meat.
· Discard excess fat or avoid fatty meats.

Fat Requirement - 20% of your diet
20% of your diet, approximately 700 calories, should be fat. At least half of the fat should be unsaturated, usually found in plants. Saturated fats are usually of animal origin. Fats are a concentrated source of energy and are particularly valuable in providing energy late in endurance events or practice.

· Fats of vegetable origin appear to be much better for the athlete “in the long run” than fats of animal origin.
· Eat fruits for desserts and snacks.
· Some researchers in sports medicine feel that a high amount of fat in the bloodstream cuts effectiveness in racing and training by 30% because of the platelets carrying oxygen are “coated” and not available for work.
· Cholesterol should be limited to 300 milligrams per day.

Fiber Requirement - Two servings per day
Two servings per day of one of the high fiber foods listed below:

Whole wheat bread, Grape nuts, All Bran puffed wheat, Corn Flakes, Shredded Wheat, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Sweet corn, Pears, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Peas, Beans, Apples, Oranges, Rolled Oats, Grapes, Brazil Nuts, Peaches, Sunflower seeds, Peanuts, Peanut Butter

· A high fiber diet can prevent constipation and related stomach problems.
· Processed foods with fiber, especially fruit, lose much of their content.

Vitamin and Mineral Requirements
- If you follow the carbohydrate, protein and fat requirements listed previously, your vitamin and mineral requirements will be satisfied.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements, with iron, may be needed during intense training.
- The particular area of weakness in athletes is usually the vitamins and minerals obtained from fruits and vegetables. Lack of vitamin A, C, E and minerals, magnesium and potassium can definitely hinder the performance of an athlete.
- Avoid Vitamin J (Junk Food)

Vitamin A (Beta Carotene) - Promotes Growth and Vitality
Helps to prevent infection; helps your eyes adjust to light/dark; essential for pregnancy
Sources: Milk, egg yolks, garlic, bananas, cheese, liver, sprouts, prunes, melons, yellow and orange fruits (pineapple), green and leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, kelp, broccoli, & cabbage)

Vitamin B (Riboflavin, Niacin, Thiamine) - Needed for Metabolism and Energy
Needed in the digestion and metabolism of protein, fats, and carbohydrates; steadies nerves and aids digestion; can improve energy and alertness; overall improves immune system; helps improve concentration, memory, and balance
Sources: Whole-grain breads and cereals, figs, barley, green vegetables, mushrooms, wheat germ, beans, nuts, seeds, bee pollen, chicken, lean pork, liver, wheatgrass, eggs, potatoes, fish

Vitamin B Complex (Choline, Folic Acid, Biotin) – Prevents Exhaustion and Maintains Muscles
Necessary in maintaining the functions of the liver and kidneys; helps control blood pressure and cholesterol; sustains healthy nerves, eases muscle pain; aids to convert food into energy; helps prevent anemia; enhances circulation
Sources: Corn, yeasts, nuts, avocado, brown rice, soybeans, leafy greens, beans, cauliflower, apricots, onions, raisins, oatmeal, fruits, wheat germ

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) – Helps to Heal and Protect
Preserves and mends connective tissues, bones, and muscles; assists healing of wounds and burns; protects against infections, viruses, and bacterial toxins; maintains solid bones and teeth; helps to lower cholesterol; a natural laxative; lowers the incidence of blood clots in veins; helps your body deal with stressful situations
Sources: Apples, beets, berries, citrus fruits, green vegetables, onion, garlic, cucumber, potato, strawberries, watercress

Vitamin D – Builds Strong Teeth and Bones
Helps calcium absorption, which is vital to strong bones and teeth; aids in producing blood plasma; regulates mineral metabolism; stabilizes the nervous system; helps in normal blood clotting
Sources: Sunlight, fish, egg yolks, sprouts, avocado, carrots, leafy greens, lemongrass, garlic, mushrooms, sunflower seeds

Vitamin E – Prevents Breakdown of Body Tissue
Protects red blood cells; promotes healing of wounds; prevents blood clots; supplies oxygen to the body for more endurance; helps protects the lungs and other tissues from damage by environmental pollutants; good for your skin
Sources: Avocado, nuts, olive oil, vegetable oil, sprouts, fruits, grains, oranges, brown rice, spinach, wheat germ, wheatgrass, egg yolks, beans

Iron (Heme) – Gives Energy and Builds the Immune System
Helps to maintain blood’s ability to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body; a shortage of iron leads to anemia and weakness; helps to fight off infection; without iron our body lacks energy to do both physical and mental work
Sources: Meat, liver, chicken, and fish (including clams and oysters)
*The iron found in these foods are all easily absorbed by the body

Iron (Non-Heme) – Gives Energy and Builds the Immune System
Helps to maintain blood’s ability to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of body; a shortage of iron leads to anemia and weakness; helps to fight off infection; without iron our body lacks energy to do both physical and mental work
Sources: Dried fruit, oatmeal, blackstrap molasses, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, shrimp, egg yolks, whole grain bread
*The iron found in these foods are not easily absorbed by the body, so should be eaten with small amounts of meat or foods high in Vitamin C in order to help absorb the iron

Calcium – Builds Strong Bones and Teeth
Calcium is necessary to grow a healthy skeleton to support a growing body; aids blood clotting; in old age aids against bone loss and fracture
Sources: Dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese), leafy greens, broccoli, molasses, artichokes, salmon, tofu, peas and beans, seeds, nuts, calcium enriched or fortified grain, soy, and citrus products

Potassium – Maintains Healthy Nerves and Muscles
Important for people who exercise heavily; regulates water balance and the acid-base balance in the blood and tissues; helps generate muscle contractions and regulates the heartbeat; it is active in glycogen and glucose metabolism, converting glucose and glycogen that can be stored in the liver for future energy
Sources: Bananas, apples, citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, dried apricots, raisins, potatoes, legumes, meat and poultry, seeds, beans, nuts

Magnesium – Regulates Temperature and Manufactures Protein
Helps to build bones and manufacture proteins; releases energy from muscle storage; regulates body temperature
Sources: Seafood, nuts, seeds, whole grains, leafy greens, soy milk, tofu

Vegetarian Nutrition

A well-planned vegetarian diet can provide all the calories, protein, vitamins and minerals you need.

These are the dietary elements that vegetarians must be especially careful to plan in their diet:

As a young runner, calcium is especially important. Aim for 1200-1500 mg every day.
Sources: milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, black beans, tofu, soy products, almonds, calcium fortified orange juice

The iron in plant food isn’t absorbed as well as the iron from animal foods. But that’s okay.
Sources: whole wheat bread, bran flakes, cream of wheat oatmeal, tomato juice, black beans, garbanzo beans, soybeans, tofu, soymilk, cashews, pumpkin seeds
***Your body absorbs more iron when eaten along with foods high in vitamin C.

Aim for 15 mg of zinc every day to help prevent stress fractures
Sources: bran flakes, lentils, soybeans, tofu, corn, peas, milk, cheese, yogurt

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. If you consume milk or eggs you will get enough B12. If you don’t, take a B12 supplement. It might take awhile to show up, but B12 deficiencies are very serious and potentially fatal.

Vitamin D
Exposure to the sun supplies your body’s vitamin D. The only good dietary sources of vitamin D are fortified milk, cereals and fish oils. If you avoid these foods and the sun, then take a vitamin D supplement.

Your body needs “complete” proteins for building tissues. Animal proteins are “complete” but plant proteins are not. However, carefully selected foods will complement each other to form a complete protein. When plant proteins are eaten along with proteins of animal origin, they will form a complete protein.
Animal proteins: cheese, cottage cheese, eggs.
Plant proteins: hummus, legumes, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, soy burgers, tofu,


When it comes to eating before a meet every athlete is different. Some have a nervous stomach and find eating hard. Others have no problems at all. Many athletes have a "ritual meal" they feel helps their performance. Below are suggestions for pre-event meals depending on the time of competition. Follow meal guidelines based on the time of the event; not the time the meet starts.

Your energy will come from what you ate for dinner and night snack the evening before. Eat a high carbohydrate/moderate protein dinner. Add a high carbohydrate bedtime snack.
Dinner the night before: Pasta/meat sauce, breadsticks, salad, milk/juice. Stir-fry, rice, toast, milk/juice. Chicken breast, large potato, salad, bread, milk/juice. Evening snack: Milk and cereal. Sport bar and juice. Frozen yogurt, graham crackers, and water. Breakfast: Eat a light breakfast of a bagel, a banana, sport bar, or cereal. This will stabilize the blood sugar, absorb stomach juices, and keep you from feeling hungry. Drink at least 16-32 ounces of fluids before bedtime and again in the morning.

Breakfast will be your primary fuel. Eat high carbohydrate/low fat foods that you’re familiar with. If you have a nervous stomach, try a canned liquid meal like Boost or a sport shake. Sip on fluids throughout the day. If your event is late afternoon have a small lunch but keep the fat content low.
Breakfast: cereal, toast, bagel, banana, yogurt, juice, canned liquid meal Small Lunch: 6" turkey sub, small bag pretzels, juice/water.

Eat a large breakfast and light lunch as above. Add a small snack 2-3 hours before your event starts. Keep the protein and fat content of the snack low. Maintain energy level using sips of sport drink.
Snack Examples: 3-6 Fig Newtons, a sport bar (3 grams of fat or less), cereal bar, bagel, banana, 1/2 cup raisins. Remember sport drinks or water for fluids.

Many athletes eat to pass the time. For bus rides that last more than 1 hour pack extra food.
Examples include: cereal bars, sport bars, dry cereal, bagels, Fig Newton’s animal crackers, and raisins.

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