on Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fats are another macronutrient which many people to swear off along with carbs, but the truth is athletes need fats in order to maximize their performance. According to USA Gymnastics fats are a crucial part of a healthy diet but the athlete must be educated and make good choices about the types of fat they eat.

Saturated fats should not exceed 7% of the athletes total calories, these fats are normally found in foods such as milk and other dairy products including cheese and ice cream, butter and chocolate. Another type of fats are trans fat.  Theses fats have been hydrogenated in order to make the fat more solid and they typically raise cholesterol levels.  These are the fats that athletes want to avoid and are normally found in processed snack foods and fast foods, which most athletes will want to try to avoid anyways in order to get all the proper nutrients.

The healthier option for meeting ones dietary needs for fats are mono and polyunsaturated fats. While including fat in your diet is important, for gymnasts having a diet too high in fat can be difficult because each gram of fat provides over twice the amount of calories as a gram of carbohydrates.  For endurance athletes this can be useful though particularly for super long distance events because the body burns the fat after the carbs have been used up.

It's finding the correct balance of carbs, protein and fat that is the key to having the nutrition for top performance. The percentages I've found vary from sport to sport but they all stay consistent in that the diet should be high in carbs, moderate in proteins and low in fat regardless of the sport.  Regardless of all the fad diets out there every athlete needs a balance of the 3 macronutrient groups and cutting any one out, or consuming too few calories will cause more harm to the athlete than anything.

On another note, as this blog was a class project this may be the last post for awhile though I may continue to write some more on more general athletics since the project combined with my interest in attempting a few more triathlons has sparked my curiosity.