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Top athletes’ diet plan

16 May 2014
Top athletes’ diet plan

Life Desk :
How different is an athlete's diet from any other person's eating habits? Is there a special diet to enhance athletic performance? Perhaps these questions race through our minds while watching athletes energetically dashing across playing fields or TV screens-be it track events, soccer, basketball, cricket, hockey or swimming. Let's take a look at how much and how many carbohydrates an athlete needs to include in the diet each day to stay on top form for peak performance.
Based on research, an adult athlete requires 5 to 7g of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight while an individual requires 7 to 10g of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight and every gram of carbohydrate produces 4 calories of energy. Such a large amount of carbohydrate is required by an athlete because it plays several key roles in the body likeproviding energy for working muscles, the central nervous system, enhancing the metabolism of fat for energy production and preventing protein from being utilized for energy. These functions are directly related to the performance of an athlete.
About 50 to 60% of calories in the diet must be from carbohydrate sources. One gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories of energy. The carbohydrate requirement for men and women is between 200 and 300 grams per day. For an adult looking to restrict carbohydrate intake, 120 grams per day is the accepted minimum. For children the requirement is between 100 to 200 grams per day.
Carbohydrates are found in food sources such as grains, fruits, milk and its products. Vegetables contain a small amount of carbohydrates. After digestion carbohydrates enter the blood stream in the form of glucose and glucose that is not utilized is stored as glycogen in the muscle tissues and liver. During exercise the blood glucose is utilized first and only next the glycogen stores are tapped into.
Glucose is the exclusive energy compound for the central nervous system because it fuels our nerve cells. Dizziness, weakness, physical and mental fatigue are experienced when there is a lack of carbohydrate during exercise because of the low levels of glucose.
However, the body can store only 2000 calories worth of glucose in the form of glycogen and this is the reason why carbohydrate is known as the limiting fuel in physical performance.
The glycogen stores in the body are depleted during exercise, if glucose is not available. If carbohydrates are unavailable the body breaks down the protein to produce energy. This is detrimental because the protein ceases to serve its primary function of muscle building and also excess breakdown of protein in the body can lead to nitrogen production which may cause a stress on the kidneys.
Carbohydrate foods are the primary source of energy for the body. Carbohydrates can be classified as simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates in the diet are easily broken down in the body and absorbed. They also have a smaller chemical structure than complex carbohydrates. Lactose, sucrose and galactose are the simple sugars. On consuming simple sugars there is a rapid increase in energy production but only for a short period of time. Examples of food containing simple sugars are candy, soda, sugar and milk.
Complex carbohydrates in the diet take much longer to be digested in the body. Owing to the slow digestion the release of glucose to the blood stream is much slower.
This property is more beneficial for an endurance athlete because the energy is released slowly over a longer duration of time when compared to energy from simple sugars. Examples of complex carbohydrates are bread, pasta, grains, fruits and vegetables. The fiber components in these foods are what cause slow digestion. Carbohydrate requirements for an individual vary for different sports.

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