Demystifying Sports Nutrition

A diet that is laden with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables will slow the aging process and its effects on performance. Photo: Scott Draper | Competitor.com

Fat: The Underdog

Athletes who fear fat likely misunderstand the important role it plays in maintaining body temperature, protecting organs, maintaining nerve impulse transmission as well as memory storage and tissue structure, and absorbing carotenoids and vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat can also serve as an energy source during extended distances, particularly at an effort of 50 to 75 percent of maximum heart rate.

“Compared to carbs and protein, we have nearly unlimited stores of fat,” says Brown. “You’ll use fat stores as energy during marathons.”

Athletes’ diets, like the diet of sedentary individuals, should be low in saturated and trans fats. The majority of an athlete’s 25 percent of total daily calories should be consumed from heart-healthy unsaturated fats—found in avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds—and, according to Applegate, 1,500-1,700mg or just over one gram a day of omega-3 fatty acids—found in fatty fish including salmon, canola and olive oils, walnuts and flaxseed. For example, one handful of walnuts provides roughly 2.5 grams of omega-3s.

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