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Dietitians Dish: Hydration, proper nutrition part of good game plan

Sept. 13, 2010 at 4:13 a.m.
Updated Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:14 a.m.

Kendra Blaschke

By Kendra D. BlaschkeSo you've survived two-a-days and the harsh Texas heat. Now, those Friday night lights are shining on you, and the last thing on your mind is nutrition. Most understand that football is a game of strength, speed and skill; however, few realize how much nutrition can affect game-time performance.

HYDRATION

Water is the best legal sports performance enhancer on the market. A two-percent loss of body weight due to dehydration can decrease performance by as much as 15-20 percent. The Texas heat, along with humidity and protective equipment required in football, all increase the likelihood of dehydration. An easy way to assess hydration status is by monitoring urine color. When adequately hydrated, urine should be the color of lemonade; apple juice color urine means you are already dehydrated. Monitoring changes in body weight can also quantify fluid losses. Athletes should weigh themselves before and after a workout in dry clothes. For every pound of weight lost, the athlete should consume 16-24 additional ounces of fluid.

While not all sports require a sports drink, Texas football players must replenish electrolytes, and, therefore, sports drinks are recommended for outdoor workouts and games.

Current fluid recommendations to optimize performance are as follows:

Four hours before workouts/games: Slowly hydrate with 16-20 ounces

During workouts or games: Sip on a sports beverage containing electrolytes and carbohydrates; half-time is a great time to get in some extra fluids

After workouts/games: Replace fluids lost (16-24 ounces for each pound lost)

PRE-GAME MEALS

The goal of a pre-game meal is to top off the energy and fluid stores so the only thing the athlete is focusing on during the game is the game itself. The ideal meal would be consumed four hours before game time and provide just enough so the athlete is neither hungry nor overly full. The meal should be high-carbohydrate, low-fiber, low-fat. Carbs are the main fuel source for football players as they provide glucose to the bloodstream making energy readily available. Good carbohydrate choices are simple foods like enriched white bread/pasta, fruits and vegetables and cereals without added fiber. One should try to avoid high-fat, high-fiber foods that tend to empty slower and leave athletes feeling full and sluggish. Athletes should also steer clear of complex fatty foods like trail mix and peanut butter before a game as these don't break down as quickly.

Examples of good pre-game meals include:

Turkey sub, frozen yogurt with fresh fruit toppings

Pasta with marinara sauce, steamed vegetables, fruit

Chicken breast, steamed rice, green beans, fresh fruit smoothie

POST-GAME NUTRITION

Just as hydration and pre-game meals can affect performance, lack of proper refueling after strenuous exercise can lead to chronic fatigue and delayed muscle recovery. It is recommended that athletes consume a good source of carbohydrates and protein within the first 15-30 minutes following an intense workout or game. This can translate into these suggestions:

Glass of chocolate milk

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Yogurt and granola

Fruit and yogurt smoothie

A full meal should then be consumed within 2 hours of the post-game "snack."

Kendra Blaschke is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with a Master's of Science Degree in Nutrition. Send questions or comments to dietitians @vicad.com.

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