Our bodies need enough energy to accomplish our daily activities. Fueling the body through a proper diet is similar to putting gasoline in a car. When you don’t get enough of the right nutrients (fuel), you will not be able to function (run out of gas).
Different types of food provide different types of fuel. For example, some foods affect blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels drop, a person may become lethargic and have difficulty concentrating. Certain factors can make blood sugar levels drop, including:
- Skipping meals
- Eliminating carbohydrates and protein from your diet
- Excessive physical activity (more calories are burned than consumed)
- Illness, such as a cold or the flu
Professional athletes know the importance of properly fueling their bodies. Before competition, when they will need a lot of energy, they "carb-load." This floods the body carbohydrates, which are converted into sugar and sent through the bloodstream to provide the body's cells with energy. If not all the energy produced is used, it is stored in the liver and muscles as a substance called glycogen. Now the body has stores of energy that can be released when needed.
The amount of carbs consumed during athletic training varies. Some experts recommend 3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight daily. Others recommend 4 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound during periods of carb-loading.
Carb-loading is not necessary for most people. Competing in a high school meet or city-sponsored league is a far cry from an event like the World Cup! However, it is important to eat the right foods to maintain energy levels. A proper diet, followed every day, should leave you feeling vitalized and ready to face the world.