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Frank Katch, William McArdle, Victor Katch and James Freeman did research in 1998 that suggested that the first nutritionists came out of the early Olympics between the years of 776 BC and 393 AD. During this period paidotribes, which were private trainers or coaches, advised their athletes about the importance of food and exercise. One of these early coaches was Melesias. Melesias was one of the most educated nutritionists in his era. He coached 30 wrestling champions (Wolinsky p.8).
They also reported that ancient scrolls and pictures showed that athletes followed plans of exercise, rest, massage, and diet for 10 consecutive months before their competition. The paidotribes would prescribe large amounts of food for boxers and wrestlers. Around 480 BC, Dromeus of Stymphalus, who was an Olympic champion in the long race twice, discovered a new diet of meat. Later, Herodicus of Selymbria modified this diet to change his own health.
Gardiner, an ancient Greek, spoke of the new diet:
The diet of the old athletes had been, like that of most Greek country folk, mainly vegetarian, consisting of figs, fresh cheese from the baskets, porridge, and meal cakes with only occasional meat as a relish, and wine. The frequently repeated statement that the athlete's diet was regulated by the law of the Games, and that he was not allowed to drink wine is entirely groundless. But shortly after the Persian Wars a change took place. A meat diet was introduced by some of the trainers.
The object of the meat diet was to produce the bulk and strength supposed to be necessary for the boxer and the wrestler. In Greece classification by weight was unknown, and in boxing and wrestling the heavyweight has the advantage. Therefore, to produce bulk, the trainer prescribed enormous quantities of meat, which had to be counteracted by excessive exercise. Eating, sleeping, and exercise occupied the athlete's whole time and left little leisure for other pursuits (Wolinsky p.8).
Nutrition in foods and beverages are still important for athletes and exercisers today. A few years ago body builders were the only people to take nutrition seriously (Bevereley 2000). John Anderson and Robert McMurray (1998) wrote that exercise and physical activity damage a person's muscles, tendons and ligaments. These tissues can be repaired quickly. Repair can take from a few minutes to few weeks. Good nutrition helps to aid in the repair of these tissues.
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Suggestions for Food Intake
There are many different theories about the intake of the proper food and nutrients. Some of these suggestions for food intake come from the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine (2001). They include: fat intake should not be below 15% of the total amount of energy intake, there should be an increased emphasis on the intake of whole grains and cereals, beans, and legumes, five or more servings of fruits and vegetables for fiber, and the adequate amount of calcium intake. It is also suggested that athletes should not skip meals, especially breakfast (Barr, Monroe, Butterfield).
John Anderson and Robert McMurray (1998) reported in their book that a commonly used diet is the food pyramid. This food guide is for moderately active people not for athletes. In order for athletes to have the proper nutrition they must increase the number of servings in the pyramid. The amount of carbohydrates and the number of other micronutrients should be taken into the most consideration (Wolinsky p.51).
They also reported that another nutrition guide that is used is the seven Dietary Guidelines. It has been modified to both athletes and nonathletes.
The seven dietary guidelines are as follows:
1. Eat a variety of foods
2. Balance the food you eat with the proper amount of
physical activity&endash;maintain or improve your weight
3. Choose a diet with plenty of grain products,
vegetables, and fruits.
4. Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and
5. Choose a diet moderate in sugars.
6. Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium.
7. If you drink alcoholic beverages do so in moderation (Wolinsky p.52)
Proper Nutrition for Growth
Anderson and McMurray reported research that showed the importance of growing athletes and nutrition. They reported that athletes that are still growing need to make sure that they intake adequate amounts of energy, protein and micronutrients. They must do this to allow for exercise and for the proper skeletal growth process (Wolinsky p.50).
It is also important for young people or children to have the proper nutrition. It is hard for young children that are athletes to have the proper nutrition because their fat intake is generally higher than their carbohydrate intake. The best solution for proper nutrition is the basic food guide pyramid. It should be taken into consideration that children have different nutrient needs than adults. Therefore, young athletes need to have special guidance by adults in order to maintain the required nutrient needs (Wolinsky p.50).
John Wilkinson and Michael Liebman did studies on carbohydrates in 1998. Their research showed that carbohydrates are important in the metabolism of humans. They are also the most abundant and the most available carbohydrates in the body. Muscle glycogen and blood glucose are readily available sources of carbohydrates in the body. These sources of food are used in both anaerobic (exercise that doesn't require oxygen) and also in aerobic (exercise that requires oxygen) activities. The breakdown of muscle glucose causes lactic acid in the muscles to accumulate, therefore, causing muscle fatigue during high intensity workouts. Carbohydrate intake before and after one of these workouts can help improve exercise performance.
They also wrote that it is suggested that carbohydrate intake should be as follows:
1. Individuals that exercise regularly should have a diet where 55-70% of the total calories come from carbohydrates
2. The consumption of pre-exercise meals that are high in carbohydrate consumption can increase exercise performance.
3. For prolonged exercise, a large meal before exercise containing more than 200 grams of carbohydrates improves performance.
4. If exercise is longer than 90 minutes carbohydrate supercompensation ("carb loading"; or the intake of large quantities of carbohydrates) can improve endurance.
5. During exercise if an individual drinks a drink that contains 45-60 grams of carbohydrates muscle fatigue can be delayed.( Wolinsky p.91)
Studies about body composition were researched and reported by Melinda Monroe, Susan Barr and Gail Butterfield. They wrote that weight and body composition are two factors that contribute to performance. Body weight can contribute to a person's speed, endurance, and power. A person's body composition on the other hand can contribute to their strength, agility, and appearance. Most athletes prefer to have a high strength to weight ratio, and because body fat adds to weight without strength, low body fat percentages are emphasized in sports. Although low body fat is preferred if there is too little body fat performance and health will not be as good (Barr, Butterfield, Monroe).
Percentages of body fat for athletes vary depending on the athlete and the sport. Male athletes that have 6% body fat or less are usually middle-distance runners, long-distance runners and bodybuilders. Sprinters, basketball players, gymnasts, and wrestlers often have a body fat percentage of between 6% and 15%. Male athletes that are involved in football, rugby, and ice hockey generally have a slightly higher percentage of body fat, which can be as high as 19%. Female athletes with the lowest percentage of body fat are also bodybuilders and runners. Since females have a higher rate of body fat their lowest levels are about 6% to 15% in bodybuilding and running events. Female volleyball players and soccer players will have a body fat percentage of about 10% to 20%. The estimated minimal level of body fat in order to stay healthy is 5% for males and 12% for females (Barr, Butterfield, Monroe).
Hydration and Dehydration
One way of having optimal performance is by staying hydrated. Described by the research website Fluids 2000, dehydration is the major cause of fatigue, poor performance, decreased coordination and muscle cramping (Fluids...). Leo Senay, Jr. reported in the book Nutrition in Exercise and Sport that twenty years ago, marathon runners were allowed a water pit stop every 16 kilometers (10 mile). After research was done and the importance of hydration was discovered it was changed to water stations every 2-3 kilometers (Wolinsky pp.271-272).
Paul Taylor, Ira Wolinsky and Dorthea Klimis wrote that if water loss is greater than water intake dehydration occurs. A person's body is very sensitive to water loss. The body can even detect small amounts of water loss. Most people are aware of the dangers of dehydration in hot and dry climates, but some are unaware of the dangers of activities in other environments such as cold and high altitudes (Driskell p.96).
To avoid dehydration during exercise and physical activity some athletes use the technique of hyperhydration. Hyperhydration is a state of abnormally increased water content of the body. It is also described as "fluid bulking". Fluid bulking is the drinking of large amounts of water or other fluids before exercising. The theory behind hyperhydration is that water loss is less than water intake (Driskell p.100).
Today hyperhydration is said to be beneficial. Individuals may drink extra amounts of fluids one to two days before an intense physical activity, such as running a marathon race, and also drinking 250 to 600 milliliters of cold water or a sports beverage 10 to 20 minutes before starting that activity (Nutrition... p.100). These suggestions are to delay dehydration, to increase sweating, and to modulate the expected rise in body temperature (Driskell p.100).
Suggestions by the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) in 2001 are as follows:
1. Before exercise: Athletes need to make sure that they are well hydrated before activity. The NATA recommends that in addition to drinking excess amounts of fluids one day before exercise athletes should consume 400 to 600 milliliters of fluid 2 to 3 hours before exercise (Barr, Butterfield, Monroe).
2. During exercise: Athletes should attempt to consume enough fluids to stay hydrated, because even the slightest amount of dehydration can cause a decrease in performance. Fluids should be drank at 15 to 20 minute intervals during the exercise to maintain proper fluid balance (Barr, Butterfield, Monroe).
3. After exercise: Most athletes don't drink enough fluids during exercise to maintain fluid balance in the body. Most finish their exercise and are somewhat dehydrated. Drinking up to 150% of the weight lost during an exercise may be necessary to cover water losses (Barr, Butterfield, Monroe).
Summary of Nutrition
Athletes that are serious in the sports that they do need to take proper nutrition into consideration. The maintenance of proper nutrition before, after and during exercise can help to improve athletic performance. Proper nutrition is in the foods that they eat and the fluids that they drink. Not only does good nutrition maintain maximal performance but it also helps to aid in the proper growth and structure of bones and muscle tissue. Proper body fat, hydration and intake of the proper amount of carbohydrates should be in an athlete's diet.
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