You’re dedicated to your sport. You train, lift weights, go to summer camp, attend every team practice, analyze your last performance and watch tapes of your next opponent. But are you eating right?

Good nutrition is an integral part of athletic performance. More and more high school athletes are educating themselves on the impact of diet on athletic performance. As you probably know, competitiveness in sports has reached unprecedented levels; today’s athletic generation is often competing for college scholarships on a national level. Your diet could be the only difference between you and your opponent.

A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette focused on how “fuel smart” today’s athletes really are. The article, written by Lenora Vesio, details the importance of fueling your body both before and after exercise, regardless if that is training, practice or competition. Vesio interviewed Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, for the article. Bonci recommends a daily diet of at least 2,200 calories, combining carbohydrates, protein and fat, while recommending that athletes in high-intensity or endurance sports consume up to 3,000 calories each day. Bonci also recommends post-exercise nutrition such as trail mix or yogurt to improve endurance and rebuild muscles.
Cynthia Lair is a member of the Nutrition faculty at Bastyr University, School of Natural Medicine, and the author of “Feeding the Young Athlete”. According to Lair “by following sound sports nutrition guidelines, it is reasonable that an athlete can find a whole new level of play”. She points out the competitive edge that a rival high school athlete can hold just by hydrating and fueling his body before and after athletic performance. As a result the player is more alert, less likely to become injured and at peak performance should a scout make an unannounced appearance.

There are excellent reasons for people of all ages to follow good nutrition guidelines. But as a student athlete it is especially important for you to counteract the impact that sports place on your body. You’ll push yourself to finish that last sit-up, why not push yourself to eat right?

Many school districts employ registered dietician or nutritionists. Consult this person or your own physician, or even your coach to create a diet that best meets your needs. And then stick to it – even in the off-season. All that training and preparation is wasted if you aren’t properly fueling your body. It could be the difference between you, your opponent and the finish line.

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