Sports nutrition has become a highly focused subspecialty. Food for athletes is largely "fuel."
Timing, amounts, and ratios make the difference as athletes seek ways to achieve peak performance and recover quickly after strenuous exertion. Both of our interviewees use an evidence-based approach and are highly respected by peers and athletes.
Liz Applegate, PhD, is the director of sports nutrition at the University of California, Davis. She is a nationally renowned expert on nutrition and fitness, the author of several books for athletes, and the nutrition columnist for Runner's World magazine. Dr. Applegate is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and a member of Sports and Cardiovascular Nutritionists.
Michael Reed, DC, CSCS, DACBSP, MS, is the first chiropractor to serve as a medical director of the Performance Services Division of the United States Olympic Committee. He was one of four chiropractors assigned to U.S. athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He was an associate clinical sciences professor and director of the sports medicine residency program at Southern California University of Health Sciences.
Red Flags Excessive Fatigue
Dr. Applegate says, "If an athlete complains that workouts aren't fun, that he's so fatigued that he's not recovering, and his resting heart rate is elevated, those are signs that he could be overtrained and he's not recovering through the proper timing and amount of carbohydrates and protein." If a doctor of chiropractic sees this in a patient, she suggests referral for a workup to look for anemia or other possible factors.
Dr. Applegate says athletes may try to control their weight with the binge/purge method. They may also use excessive exercise. "Athletes will tell me, 'I ate too much, so I went out and ran ten extra miles.' That's not in keeping with the training program that the coaches set up." DCs who suspect that an athlete is approaching weight control through one of these methods may want to suggest healthier options.
The Female Athlete
Dr. Applegate says that although the premenopausal athlete needs iron and the postmenopausal athlete does not, women's nutrition needs are more complex than that simple formula indicates. "Golf, for example, has very different demands from those placed on female soccer players, compared to cross-country runners." In addition, a female athlete's calorie needs are markedly lower than a male's. Take, for example, the needs of an active (not competitive) premenopausal female who is trying to work out most days of the week at a club, or who belongs to a running group. But the rest of the time, she's sedentary. "While her energy needs were 1,600 calories, now she's adding 300 calories' worth of exercise--but she still needs fewer than 2,000 calories every day.
"She really has to be careful about eating nutrient-dense foods every day. Those are foods that supply quality nutrient levels for the number of calories per serving. Skim milk or low-fat soy milk would be an example. She needs calcium fortified with vitamin D--two key nutrients that women typically fall...