Six basic nutrients of sound nutrition for athletes

Sports Nutrition


With a vast array of appealing foods and all kinds of information on foods, coaches should diligently seek out true information and disseminate it (Mannie, 2001). This will accrue to their athletes’ best performance and prevent poor health. Nutrition should be a top priority and based on scientific, official facts. The Food Guide Pyramid or FGP, developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the template for the daily food consumption of the basic nutrients, specifically for athletes. These nutrients are carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water (Mannie).


Food sources include bread, cereal, rice and others in the pasta group (Mannie, 2001).

The FGP recommends 6-11 servings of these sources, 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4

of fruits to fill in 60-70% of the daily requirement of the nutrient. These foods should be in an athlete’s regular grocery list. A carbohydrate-rich diet maintains muscle and liver glycogen and blood glucose at optimal levels. Glycogen is the body’s fuel, specifically for high-intensity athletic performances. The shortage of ingested carbohydrates often accounts for easy fatigue. Athletes need 3-4 grams of the nutrient per pound body weight daily. Heavy training requires even more. An athlete on heavy training needs 0.5 grams of carbohydrate food or drink to recover every two hours in the next 6-8 hours after training. A 200-pound athlete, for example, needs to ingest 100 grams every 2 hours for at least 6 hours from heavy training or a game (Mannie).

Popular high-glycemic foods are glucose, 100 g; Gatorade, 91; baked potatos, 85; corn flakes, 84; rice cakes, 82; microwaved potato, 82; jelly beans, 80; vanilla wafers, 77; cheerios, 74; Cream of Wheat, 74; watermelon, 72; Lender’s white bagel, 72; white bread, 70; whole wheat, 65-75; Fanta soft drink, 68; Mars bar, 68; grape nuts, 67; couscous, 65; table sugar, 65; raisins, 64; oatmeal, 42-75; and ice cream, 36-80 (Mannie, 2001). Moderately glycemic foods are bran muffin, Bran Chex, orange juice, boiled potato, brown rice, white and long grain rice, popcorn, corn, sweet potato, overripe banana, Pound cake Sara Lee, green peas, baked beans, white parboiled rice, lentil soup, orange, all-Bran cereal, spaghetti without sauce, pumpernickel bread and unsweetened apple juice. Low-glycemic foods include apple, pear, PowerBar, chocolate milk, low-fat fruit yogurt, chickpeas, frozen lima beans, yellow split peas, skim milk, dried apricots, green beans, under-ripe bananas, lentils, kidney beans, whole milk, barley, grapefruit and fructose (Mannie).


Approximately 15% of daily calorie intake should be protein, according to nutrition experts (Mannie, 2001). Most people actually consume more than this. It consists of amino acids, which build tissue. Nine of them are considered essential because they come from food. The body needs 21 to build tissue. The body makes the remaining 12 when necessary. Quality protein sources include dairy products, fish, poultry, meat and other animal sources. The recommended daily allowance is .04 grams per pound body weight for an ordinary person. The very active one or competitive athletes may need .06-.09 grams. The body does not need more than .09 grams (Mannie).

Athletes should eat healthier, high-quality protein sources regularly but not in excess (Mannie, 2001). Muscle growth comes from strength-training, not from over-consumption of protein. They should look for loin or round beef; leg and loin of pork; and low-fat, skim milk or non-fat powdered milk (Mannie).


Approximately 25-30% of the daily diet should be fats (Mannie, 2001). Fats maintain skin and hair, store and transport fat-soluble vitamins, strengthen cell wall and insulate the body. They are either saturated or unsaturated. Saturated fats are found in meat, poultry, whole dairy foods and tropical oils such as palm and coconut. A diet high in saturated fats is blamed for cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Many snacks and fast foods are full of saturated facts, making them unhealthy and of little value to energy production in athletes. They should not eat foods with more than 1-2 grams of saturated fats. Unsaturated fats are either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, canola and peanuts. Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts, fish and vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower and soybean. Essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alphalinolenic acid, come from unsaturated sources, such as omega-3 and omega-6 groups. It is advisable to substitute these fish sources for red meat now and then to avoid saturated fat ingestion as well as take in these essential fatty acids (Mannie).

Vitamins and Minerals

These are micronutrients or organic compounds, which regulate and catalyze biochemical reactions in the body (Mannie, 2001). Vitamins have to come from foods because the body does not produce them. They are either fat-soluble or water soluble. Vitamins a, D, E and K. are fat-soluble. Vitamin sC and the B. complex vitamins are water-soluble. A diet, which meets the daily nutrient requirements, does not need vitamin supplements. Furthermore, vitamins do not provide energy but only help the body obtain energy from food. A vitamin pill does not make up for a regular and balanced diet. Athletes who ingest accurate calories are likely to ingest sufficient vitamin requirements for their activity needs (Mannie).

A decrease in muscle glycogen or energy stores and an increase in muscle protein breakdown follow an intense football workout or competition (Wellman, 2003). The post-workout or post-competition meal should provide the optimal nutrients to refuel the body. If the two conditions are not adequately addressed, there can be prolonged soreness or fatigue; little or lost muscle mass; and reduced or poor performance. The timing of the post-competition or post-training meal and the type and amount of carbohydrates taken are the major determinants in restoring muscle glycogen. It occurs twice as fast if consumed immediately after the activity as when taken several hours later. Simple carbohydrates with a high glycemic index quickly enter the bloodstream after the strenuous activity. Experts recommend .5 to .7 grams of high glycemic sources per pound body weight within 30 minutes of the activity. The intake may be repeated every 2-6 hours. Liquid sources are convenient examples (Wellman).

Protein must be part of the post-activity meal (Wellman, 2003). Consuming protein sources after strenuous activity stimulates protein synthesis but also breaks it down. The current recommended amounts for strength and endurance athletes are 1.6-1.7 grams per kilogram body weight and 1.2-1.4, respectively. A 200-pound athlete should consume 140-160 grams of protein a day. An endurance athlete should consume 120 grams. Convenient sources are 2 peanut butter sandwiches at 30 grams; 2 cups of milk at 16 grams; 1 cup yogurt at 10 grams; 2 eggs and 2 whites at 20 grams; 1 chicken breast at 30 grams; and 1 cup of baked beans at 14 grams. Carbohydrates and protein after a high-energy activity is better than consuming only one of these nutrients. Recommended protein intake at post-activity is 20-40 grams immediately following the game or training. Sodium replenishment after exercise or game replaces lost fluids in sweat (Wellman).

National Food League quarterbacks Brett Favre and Jake Delhomme share their expertise with school children on the importance of good nutrition, specifically milk

(Business Wire, 2004). They and other League players were behind the 3-a-Day of Diary

Program, reaching out to 18 million students with the message, “Milk: the Power behind the Play.” Brett said that three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt daily with exercise will benefit kids and make them grow into healthy adults (Business Wire).

Football players Ed Petter and Stu Archer of London share their regimen, called the Programme (Independent on Sunday, 2002). Their coach and nutritionist made sure the players would benefit from their pre- and post-nutrition regime. Arran Peck was their experienced strength and conditioning coach, who worked with athletes and sports players in different fields. Matt Lovell was the nutritionist who worked at the Centre for Nutritional Medicine. Among his clients were the British Olympic track and field squad, the England women’s rugby union squad and Millwall Football Club (Independent on Sunday).

Matt gave Ed two eggs on toast with half-a-grapefruit and orange juice for breakfast (Independent on Sunday, 2002). Ed took fish oils and multivitamins on a daily basis. These were immediately followed by a good fiber and protein meal in minutes or strength during his warm-up sessions. Matt gave Stu chicken, basmati rice, couscous and egg and Jaffa cakes for his “insulin.” Matt’s intention was to bring extra protein straight into Stu’s tired muscles. He also served Stu with nuts for his snacks (Independent on Sunday).

Commercial high-carbohydrate electrolyte sports drinks fill the football player’s need, especially within the first 15 minutes after strenuous activity. These drinks also appeal more than plain water while contributing their value (Mannie, 2001).


Business Wire (2004). 3-a-day dairy teams up with national football league to tackle kids’ nutrition and fitness in schools. Business Wire: Gale, Cengage Learning.

Retrieved on April 4, 2009 from;col1

Independent on Sunday (2002). The programme. Independent Newspapers UK Limited

ProQuest Information and Learning Company. Retrieved on April 4, 2009 from;col1

Mannie, K (2001). The six basic nutrients of sound nutrition for athletes. Coach and Athletic Director: Scholastic, Inc. Retrieved on April 4, 2009 from;col1

Wellman, a. (2003). Bouncing back nutritionally from an intense workout or game.

Coach and Athletic Director: Scholastic, Inc. Retrieved on April 4, 2009 from;col1

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