Posted 10/20/2017 by UHBlog
People are advised to visit their dentist at least twice a year to maintain healthy teeth. If you’re involved in athletics or any type of physical fitness activity, you may want to do something similar with a registered dietitian. That’s because a registered dietitian can help you plan a diet to achieve peak athletic performance, while potentially avoiding or minimizing injuries.
According to registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Jamieson-Petonic, most people who spend time being active don’t pay much attention to what they are eating to fuel their body.
“A sports dietitian can provide an individualized nutrition assessment based on the activity that an athlete is doing and make recommendations on how to improve his or her sports diet,” Jamieson-Petonic says. “A ‘check up from the neck up’ means making sure that what you’re eating is going to allow you to perform at an optimal level. This is definitely true for athletes who are rehabbing from an injury or surgery. Nutrition can make or break how quickly you get back on the field.”
Whether you’re rehabbing or performing, Jamieson-Petonic suggests visiting your nutritionist at least annually, but preferably two or more times per year. This helps ensure that you're getting the vitamins and minerals you need.
“Adequate nutrition will allow injured athletes to get back to their game much more rapidly,” she says. “Adequate calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat and specific vitamins and minerals have been confirmed by research to help promote healing. Some athletes feel that if they are not participating in sports, that they need to cut back on their nutritional intake. However, this is the exact opposite of what is recommended. Athletes’ energy needs may be as much as 20 percent higher when they have an injury, such as a broken bone. For example, an athlete that normally requires 2,000 calories per day may need 2,400 calories per day when he or she is recovering from an injury.”
As components of a body cell structure, protein and fat are important to healing. The body continues to make and repair millions of new proteins every day to replace worn out proteins that make up connective tissue.
“Both animal and vegetable proteins can help promote healing,” she says. “Casein and whey are both proteins found in milk. Casein may have a role in prevention of muscle breakdown, and whey builds muscles. Whey is much more quickly absorbed and is the preferred choice for injures.”
Vegetable protein includes soy products, quinoa or a combination – such as beans and rice – to promote healing. Because vegetable protein is not as readily absorbed as animal protein, the protein needs for a vegan are higher than for an athlete who consumes animal protein.
For the athlete who is sidelined by an injury, a “rehab diet” can help get you back into action. Among the most important ingredients of a rehab diet that Jamieson-Petonic recommends are:
- Protein: As high as two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is what most athletes need. For a 150-pound athlete, that's 140 grams of protein per day.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce inflammation and swelling and accelerate recovery. Sources include salmon, tuna, oysters, trout, walnuts and ground flaxseed. Additionally, some foods are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, like eggs, margarine, milk, juice and soy yogurt.
- Vitamin A. This vitamin aids in cell growth and development. Vitamin A-rich foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, papaya and red bell peppers.
- Zinc, which is involved with wound healing and immune function. It can be found in foods such as almonds, sunflower seeds, beef, seafood and pork.
- Calcium and Vitamin D. These are essential for bone development and repair. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products, fortified foods, leafy greens and sardines. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified almond and soymilk.
Another benefit of an individualized nutrition plan is it’s tailored to meet each athlete's specific needs, instead of being a one-size-fits-all plan. For example, Jamieson-Petonic says, a 16-year-old female runner will have different nutritional needs than a 12-year-old football player or a 75-year-old man who plays golf.
“All of these athletes have specific nutrition requirements, and a nutrition checkup will give them the most comprehensive nutrition program to perform their sport at their optimal level,” she says. “Many times athletes struggle with fatigue, recurrent injuries and reduced performance because their sports nutrition program is suffering. Proper sports nutrition can help you run faster, lift more weight, and reduce rehab times.”
To learn more about how a sports dietitian can help you or to make an appointment, call 216-844-1499.
Amy Jamieson-Petonic, M.Ed., RDN, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Jamieson-Petonic or any other healthcare professional online.