Fuel for the common athlete

As any athlete knows, fuel is an important part of any exercise regimen.

As any athlete knows, fuel is an important part of any exercise regimen. Improper nutrition can lead to a host of problems, and anyone embarking on a fitness program, regardless of their level of fitness, is served well by a proper diet. Though getting started may be hard, there are some easy general guidelines to follow. Of course, it is always a good idea to consult a physician before changing your diet or beginning a rigorous exercise plan. 

Jordann Henkelman, R.D., L.D., of Student Health and Counseling, had several ideas about sports nutrition, but doesn’t believe that sports nutrition varies greatly from the diet of someone concerned about improving his or her overall health. A large part of it is balancing carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Ideally, says Henkelman, an athlete who fastidiously tracks his or her diet would get about 50 percent of their daily calories from carbs, 25 percent from protein and 25 percent from fat, not to mention plenty of fluids. 

Henkelman says another important aspect is eating several small, frequent meals a day and not splurging on one large meal. She also says that these meals need to have particular carbohydrates, ones that come from whole grain foods. Right before and right after you exercise are key times to take in carbs. 

“[Eat] few processed foods…that’s a big deal for living an active, healthy lifestyle. Not eating foods out of boxes, but foods that come from the ground,” Henkelman says.

For those just starting out on a sports diet, Henkelman wants them to know that sports stimulates appetite and that exercising is not an excuse to eat garbage.

“There’s that compensatory behavior of ‘Oh, I just went on a run so it doesn’t matter if I go to Starbucks and have a peppermint latte with whip and a muffin’… so you burn 200 calories, but you eat 400. You should just be aware that you are going to feel more hungry and that’s why it’s important to eat foods that are high-fiber, nutrient-rich foods to really help you feel satisfied,” Henkelman says. 

She is also quick to point out that there are plenty of plant-based protein sources that should help ease those hunger pains, such as beans, lentils, quionoa and tofu.

Henkelman currently works at SHAC two days a week and the rest of the time at Providence St. Vincent Medical center. She specializes in eating disorders and diets.