Healthy Lifestyle Tips for Athletes
Lifestyle Changes That May Be Helpful
Many athletes use exercise and weight-modifying diets as tools to change their body composition, assuming that a lower percent body fat and/or higher lean body mass is desirable in any sport. There is no single standard for body weight and body composition that applies to all types of athletic activities. Different sports, even different roles in the same sport (e.g., running vs. blocking in football), require different body types. These body types are determined by genetics. However, within each athlete's genetic predisposition, variations occur due to diet and exercise that may impact performance. In general, excess weight is a disadvantage in activities that require quickness and speed. However, brief, intense bursts of power depend partly on muscle size, so this type of activity may favor athletes with higher body weights due to increased lean body mass. On the other hand, participants in endurance sports, which require larger energy reserves, should not attempt to lower their body fat so much as to compromise long-term performance.
Nutritional Supplements That Help
Athletes do not eat an optimal diet, especially when they are trying to control their weight while training strenuously. These athletes may experience micronutrient deficiencies that, even if marginal, could affect performance or cause health problems. However, athletes who receive recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals from their diet do not appear to benefit from additional multivitamin/mineral supplements with increased performance. The importance of individual vitamins and minerals is discussed below. Electrolyte replacement is not as important as water intake in most athletic endeavors. It usually takes several hours of exercise in warm climates before sodium depletion becomes significant and even longer for potassium, chloride, and magnesium. However, the presence of sodium in fluids will often make it easier to drink as well as retain more fluid. Most research has demonstrated that strenuous exercise increases production of harmful substances called free radicals, which can damage muscle tissue and result in inflammation and muscle soreness. Exercising in cities or smoggy areas also increases exposure to free radicals. Antioxidants, including vitamin C and vitamin E, neutralize free radicals before they can damage the body, so antioxidants may aid in exercise recovery. Regular exercise increases the efficiency of the antioxidant defense system, potentially reducing the increased intake otherwise needed for protection.