Different Sports Different Approaches to Eating

No matter what sport you choose, MyPyramid is a basic guide for high-performance eating. Choose enough nutrient-rich food-group foods for the food energy you need.

The most significant nutrition difference from sport to sport relates to energy. The duration and intensity of activity, as well as body size, make the difference.

  • A 200-pound football player uses more energy than a 90-pound gymnast.
  • A baseball player uses less energy than a soccer player, who's almost constantly in motion.
  • An endurance cross-country skier or a longdistance runner likely uses more energy overall than a tennis player or a golfer, who uses spurts of energy for a shorter time.

Every sport demands adequate fluids to replace perspiration and breathing losses, too. In sports with prolonged, intense activity, athletes may perspire more—especially during hot weather.

Endurance Sports

Both in training and in competition, endurance sports—cross-country and marathon running, crosscountry skiing, distance bicycling, field hockey, longdistance swimming, and soccer—require more energy. Activity that lasts longer than several hours depletes glycogen stores. Carbohydrate consumed during exercise helps endurance athletes maintain a fast pace; fat is used more efficiently for fuel as exercise continues. Also, protein is a minor fuel source during endurance exercise. Endurance athletes do not need to consume more protein than strength-training athletes; adult endurance athletes should aim for 0.6 to 0.7 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

Energy needed for endurance sports depends on body size, duration of activity, and overall effort. For the elite athlete that may be as high as 4,000 to 6,000 calories daily, chosen from a high-carbohydrate diet. Best sources: nutrient-rich foods from all groups of MyPyramid.

Nonendurance Sports

Nonendurance sports—baseball, bowling, golf, martial arts, softball, speed skating, sprint swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and weight lifting—are fueled by short bursts of energy, perhaps just for two or three minutes or even several seconds. While these sports take an intense, all-out effort, they don't use as much energy overall because their duration is shorter.

Still, nonendurance sports might be of high or moderate intensity. The overall energy demand depends not only on the duration but also on the intensity and the athlete's body size.

Except for calories, nutrient needs for athletes involved in endurance and nonendurance sports are about the same. Again, MyPyramid offers a healthful eating guideline, with an emphasis on nutrient-rich, carbohydrate-rich foods.

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