Weight management and nutrition play a pivotal role in the performance outcome of an athlete. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the influence weight management can have on athletic performance. Of particular note, is the influence body composition and calorie intake can have on an athlete's weight. It is suggested that calorie and nutrient intake should be based on an individuals lean body mass, desired body composition, goal weight, and sport or activity requirements. If calorie intake is either too high or too low it will have a negative impact on an individuals metabolism and body composition. For this reason, it is imperative that lean body mass (muscle) is kept to an ideal range, as a means of ensuring that metabolic (using fuel as energy i.e. food) function remains efficient. Ideal lean muscle mass for female athlete's should not exceed 30 percent of their total body weight, while male athlete's should fall between 12 to 15 percent. Failing to attain the foregoing percentage figures will mean that an athlete's metabolism will inevitably become less efficient, invariably leading to an increase in weight.
A healthy dietary intake should provide adequate calories to achieve body weight goals, supply essential nutrients, and maintain hydration. To ensure effective performance, it is suggested that energy intake come from an appropriate balance of the 3 energy producing nutrients i.e. protein, carbohydrates and fats. However, the appropriate intake of non-energy producing essential nutrients is vital in facilitating energy from the foregoing energy producing nutrients and the maintenance of our physiological processes e.g. the breakdown of our carbohydrates, proteins and fats to generate energy. It is generally recommended that carbohydrates should make up 55 to 70 percent of the total caloric intake of athletes and active people and may be as high as 12 grams per kilogram of body weight. In determining protein intake, it is important to identify the type of exercise and the intensity level of that exercise. In events lasting longer than 60 to 70 minutes, amino acids are broken down at an incredibly fast rate, and for this reason protein intake will need to increase to match energy demands. It is recommended that athletes consume between 1 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight daily. However, it is important to have the amount of protein assessed by a qualified health care practitioner as excess protein intake also increases hydration needs, overburdens the liver and kidneys and interferes with calcium absorption.
Finally dietary fats are essential to a healthy diet because they provide energy, assist in the transport and use of fat soluble vitamins (e.g. ADEK), and protect the essential elements of our cells. The breaking down of fat for energy is essential for low to moderate intensity exercise and increases an athletes aerobic capcacity during exercise. Despite the average intake of dietary fats, in athletes, standing at approximately 30 percent, the commonly held consensus is that 20 to 25 percent of total caloric intake should come from fats. However, it is important to appreciate that fat intake should exclude partially hydrogenated and fully hydrogenated fats. Hence, total fat intake should be equally divided between polyunsaturated, monounstaurated and saturated fats.
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