Professional athletes have been making headlines a lot recently, and for something other than their slam dunks.
Athletes have been changing their eating habits in an effort to improve performance. A few weeks ago, Tom Brady’s diet went viral. Last week we heard about the ban on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (and the battles that ensued!) for the Golden State Warriors. Spoiler alert: the Warriors won, and their beloved PB&Js are back.
While sugar in excess is not recommended for anyone, athlete or otherwise, it does not need to be entirely excluded from the diet of fit and active people. The US Dietary Guidelines suggest 10% of calories can come from refined sugar, if desired. So, in the case of the Warriors basketball players, that could equate to at least 400 to 500 calories of sugar per day. (That’s a lot of jelly!) Their muscles will welcome the sugar and rapidly utilize it to refuel their depleted glycogen stores.
The remaining 90% of the (higher quality) calories can invest in providing needed nutrients and serve a bigger purpose for their bodies. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains supply necessary carbohydrates to fuel activities, as well as provide important vitamins and minerals. Lean meats, dairy, and legumes provide protein to build muscle. These nutrients can easily be consumed within less than 1,500-2,000 calories of wholesome foods. So, in the 3,000 to 4,000 calories (or more) consumed by the Golden State Warriors, those basketball players can eat more than enough “good stuff.”
Fueling before and after workouts is important, as is eating balanced meals throughout the day. But you don’t need to choose between eating for pleasure and eating for performance – both can co-exist quite well together.
Bottom line: Hungry athletes need not fret about (a little) refined sugar, if desired, whether as jelly in a beloved PB&J, a swig of sports drink, or some chocolate milk.
If you want to learn more about the best ways to fuel for an active lifestyle, you want to contact a registered sports dietitian. Use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org to find a local sports RD.
Guest blogger Emily McGourty is a nutrition student at Simmons College in Boston.