While nutrition is important for all people, we believe it is especially critical for you – the competitive athlete – in order to perform at your best both on and off the field.
The nutrition information will presented to you in nine installments over the next few weeks and falls into two categories. Category 1 is the Fundamentals of Nutrition. Category 2 is Nutrition for the Competitive Soccer Player. There is a lot of information so we will communicate it in short digestible segments.
Category 1 – The Fundamentals of Nutrition: Includes an introduction; explanation of protein, carbohydrates, and fat – why we need them, what they do in the body, and healthy choices; a discussion of neurotransmitters; and an explanation of the calorie myth. This provides the foundation for Part 2.
Category 2 – Nutrition for the Competitive Soccer Player: Looks at nutritional requirements specifically for the competitive athlete; hydration; eating around workouts; healthy snacks; and ideas for healthy meals.
The Fundamentals of Nutrition
The human body is amazing. Every second there are thousands of chemical reactions happening simultaneously. That is life! For life to exist the body requires energy and building materials. This comes from what enters our body in one form or another, mainly from the food we eat and the air we breathe. Without these the body cannot continue to function.
But, there is an important difference between basic functioning and thriving as a competitive athlete.
Our diet is critical to our health and even more so for the competitive athlete. There’s an old saying, “We are what we eat.” What we put into our body is what it has to work with. And remember – this is a volunteer activity. We choose what we put into our body.
We classify “food” into three broad categories called the macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrate. “Macro” because we need these foods in relatively large amounts. We also have the micronutrients – vitamins and minerals. “Micro” because we need these nutrients in relatively smaller amounts. The last of the “big six” nutrients is water.
This classification system generates some questions right away. Exactly what is larger, what is smaller, and how much of each? In addition, virtually all foods are a combination of these nutrients, so it is somewhat difficult to completely isolate these components. Real foods in nature contain these components in a synergistic design.
What do these nutrients do?
Protein provides the building blocks, while fats and carbohydrates provide energy. Protein can also provide energy upon demand, but this is not its primary function. Vitamins and minerals support the biological processes that occur in our body. Without their support our body will not function optimally. Most disease stems from deficiencies of various nutrients.
When it comes to providing energy fats and carbohydrates do it differently. Think of a fire. A carbohydrate is like a piece of paper. You put it in the paper and it burns up quickly and to keep the fire burning more paper is needed quickly. Fat is like a log. It burns smoothly, steady, and for a much longer period of time. Vitamins and minerals provide the sparks for the fire.
We will be discussing protein, carbohydrates, and fats in more detail. At this point I’ll keep it real simple about vitamins and minerals. In short, they are found in real foods. These are the foods you will see listed in the sections that follow discussing each nutrient. Eat the recommended foods and your diet will be filled with all the vitamins and minerals that you need.