Athletes, are you getting enough fuel and is it the right kind?


December 08, 1992|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

Athletes, when it comes to food, do you know what's good for you?

Food is the fuel for your sport. Are you getting enough?

Food provides the building materials for your bones, muscles and blood. Are you getting the right kind?

Here are the explanations for the answers to last week's sports quiz.

1. Basal metabolic rate for women is about 1,200 calories a day, for men about 1,800. Additional activity, such as sitting, walking, vacuuming or shoveling snow, adds to the day's total. Average total energy expenditure is estimated to be between 2,000 and 2,100 calories a day for women, and 2,700 to 3,000 for men between the ages of 15 and 50.

People accustomed to counting calories believe they do not eat this much. However, most count calories only when they're "being good," but not during unusual times, like parties, holidays or occasional pig-outs. But your body counts it all, and the averages are correct.

2. A woman running burns about 80 calories a mile, a man about 100. Heavier people burn more. So do folks who go faster, but speed isn't everything. Minute for minute, most physical activity (other than cross-country skiing) burns fewer calories than running.

3. Teen-age boys have high iron needs during periods of rapid growth when blood volume is increasing. Teen-age girls and all menstruating women have high iron needs because of monthly blood loss. Endurance athletes, especially runners, have high iron needs due to loss of blood cells that are shattered during prolonged physical activity, especially the pounding of running.

4. Iron from lean red meat is absorbed better than iron from any other source. Small amounts of red meat, chicken and fish, eaten along with beans, vegetables and cereals, will increase iron absorption from those foods. Alternatively, foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes and dark green leafy vegetables, will increase iron absorption from non-animal foods also.

5. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is about 43 grams a day for a 120-pound woman and 56 grams a day for a 156-pound man. Research has shown that even less, about 23 grams for women and 40 grams for men, is enough to increase muscle mass in a weight lifting program, as long as total calories eaten equal calories expended for the day. 6. Each ounce of meat, chicken or fish provides 7 grams of protein. Each serving of dairy food (8 ounces of milk or yogurt or 1 ounce of cheese) provides about 8 grams of protein. One-half cup of beans or peas and 1 1/2 cups of rice is equal in protein value to 6 ounces of beef. Peanut butter on bread adds substantially to the day's total.

7. Many people believe that cookies, cakes and candies are high complex-carbohydrate foods. Most are actually made up of sugar (a simple carbohydrate) mixed with plenty of fat.

Potatoes, lima beans, corn, yams, peas and carrots are starchy vegetables, high in complex carbohydrates. Foods made from cereal grains, like spaghetti, breakfast cereals, bread, pita pockets, bagels and English muffins, contain complex carbohydrates.

Eat vegetables or grains within two hours after your workout to replace energy stores needed for the next day.

8. Sports drinks containing some carbohydrate will actually prolong endurance for athletes who are exercising constantly for 90 minutes or more. They have no effect on short-term activity.

9. Several different studies have shown that some female athletes with very low body fat percentage and high level of activity may stop menstruating. Other women with the same low body fat percentage and high activity level do not.

Those who stop usually have very low food intakes, about 500 calories per day less than athletes who continue to have menstrual periods.

Athletes who stop menstruating have more stress fractures and soft-tissue injuries than those who continue. Active women can maintain strong, healthy bodies, yet gradually lose weight, while eating 1,500 to 2,000 calories. 10. Making weight for wrestling is rife with misinformation. Athletes who stop eating or deliberately dehydrate themselves become weak and uncoordinated. Most high school boys, even in the lowest weight categories, can lose weight eating 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day. In addition, wrestlers can reduce excess body fluid by limiting salty foods.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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