Lack of sleep causes a host of problems, including:
- Inability to concentrate
- Upset digestive system
- Slower reflexes
- Irrational thoughts
Sleep deprivation affects the body both mentally and physically. Physically, athletes cannot perform as well. They do not process oxygen as efficiently, which causes fatigue in the muscles faster and results in sluggish performance. Mentally, athletes cannot process information as quickly, cannot focus as well, and are generally irritable and unhappy. These mental and emotional consequences lead to lack of confidence and other negative effects.
When you see a player who is struggling due to lack of sleep, consider talking with them about what is going on at home. Influences like family problems, poor grades, and other unrest at home can cause players to lose sleep and see the effects in other areas of their lives.
Athletes are not the only people who need to know about nutrition as it relates to sports. Many parents, especially if their child is new to sports, will not understand the different requirements of sports nutrition. Without knowing it, they may be feeding their children food that will hinder their performance instead of help it.
The information you provide must be accurate and timely. Since you already know the basics of sports nutrition, our main concern for this benchmark is timeliness. At the beginning of the season, players and parents should get a list of what foods are good to eat and what foods should be avoided.
The best foods for athletes to eat are:
- Whole grains—pasta, cereal, breads, and bagels give good, long-lasting energy necessary for sport participation
- Peanut butter—this high protein food is also high in calories and should be consumed in moderation, but it is easy to carry and has a high percentage of good fats
- Fresh fruits and vegetables—these foods contain necessary vitamins and minerals that will fuel the body during exercise. Potassium, as found in bananas, is a great mineral for athletes because it regulates water levels in the body and stabilizes muscle contraction
- Calcium-rich foods—calcium-rich foods strengthen bones and help protect athletes from injury. Athletes should consume these foods far in advance of activity because of the long processing time they require in the body. If athletes are unable to consume dairy products, supplements are sufficient
- Fiber-rich foods—whole grains, berries, apples, almonds, and legumes are good choices for fiber-rich foods. These foods keep athletes full for longer and regulate the digestive trac
The foods that athletes should avoid include:
- High fructose corn syrup—as this sugar substitute shows up in many sports drinks, you will have to educate players about how to measure if their supposedly “good” foods are really good. Show them how to read labels and give examples of good drinks and bad drinks
- Caffeine—athletes choosing to consume caffeine should do so 45-60 minutes before activity, as it takes some time for the body to absorb and process caffeine. Though this substance will provide energy for athletes, a better source of this energy is from whole grains and protein. The effects of caffeine are negative enough that it does not make caffeine a worthwhile energy provider
- Simple carbohydrates—these simple sugars break down quickly and provide instant energy, but they run out faster, leaving players to require more food, equaling more calories. Athletes will often feel sluggish and tired after the simple carbohydrates break down
- Fats and sweets—saturated fats are the kind most often consumed from sweets and other dessert foods. These fats are solid at room temperature and are found in candy, cakes, donuts, and other sweet breads. The majority of fat should come from unsaturated fats like those from fish, olives, nuts, seeds, soy, avocado and their oils.
- Fried food—because of the difficulty our bodies have processing fried foods, athletes should avoid them in order to also avoid stomach irritation, nausea, and diarrhea. Most fried food has nutrients buried inside, but they are covered up by saturated fats and hard to get to. This means that fried food sits in the stomach longer as the body tries to process it