Most students live at home with their parents before coming to college, therefore not everyone has the knowledge of how to properly fuel their bodies when making their own decisions about food.
While nutrition for athletes looks a little different, the general principles remain the same. The average person eats around 2,000 calories each day to maintain a healthy style. Calories are defined as the amount of energy that food contains. A well-balanced diet should include a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
The essential nutrients are separated into two categories: macro and micronutrients. According to
the American Council on Exercise, a macro-based diet should contain 45 to 65 percent of carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent of protein, and 20 to 35 percent of fat. These percentages vary based on age, gender, body type, and activity levels. Although it is important to reach macro goals, it is also critical to reach these goals by eating whole and nutritious food.
In trying to reach a well-balanced diet, a person should emphasize eating fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal to maintain a healthy carbohydrate goal. While refraining from refined carbs, a person should focus on eating potatoes and whole grains for energy. Both carbohydrates and fats are energy providers to the body. The difference is that carbohydrates allow the body to make glucose, which is the body’s main energy source.
Fats being the body’s other main energy source are important to consume on a daily basis; however, a person needs to be certain they are eating “good” fats over “bad” fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known as the healthy fats. These include avocadoes, nuts, olives, seeds, and fatty fish. Women tend to eat a higher percentage of fats to balance hormones, but fats are also beneficial to fight inflammation, regulate body temperature, and enhance brain health.
Protein is the last macronutrient that is to be consumed daily. This macro is beneficial for maintaining heart health, keeping the immune system functioning properly, and to boost overall mood. High quality protein examples are fish, poultry, dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, and soy products. Protein supplements are also a good source of protein; however, many adults do not need protein supplements unless they are engaging in regular exercising. While the three types of macronutrients can be generalized into percentages and categories, it’s important to understand what the individual body needs.
Athletes’ consumption of food looks a little different to the average person. Very active people need to
consume more calories a day because of the extra energy they are expending by working out and staying active. While athletes need to consume more fat and carbohydrates for energy, they also need to eat a larger amount of protein throughout the day in order to repair and maintain muscle mass. As a dancer, I eat a high-protein, high-fat diet to repair muscle and fight inflammation.
Nutrition can be overwhelming, especially when first learning about technical terms like macro and
micronutrients. The key point to remember is everyone’s body is different. Not everyone’s diet and consumption of food is going to look the same. As a rule of thumb, you will get your essential nutrients in by making your plates colorful and well-rounded with fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Nutrition isn’t all about percentages and calories, it’s also about eating what makes you feel your best and happy.
Sources: The American Council on Exercise