16 year old Gabby Douglas's amazing performance won her the gold in gymnastics, making her the first African- American to achieve this feat. Gymnastics needs a lot of discipline and a well balanced diet that will support the muscle strength that all elite gymnasts need. Experts say that a well balanced diet is vital to prevent any deficiencies in female gymnasts so that they maintain good health and are able to give the best to their game. This blog takes a close look at the special dietary requirements for Olympic gymnasts such as Gabby Douglas.
Considering that a gymnastic event lasts only for a couple of minutes, a very high calorie diet is not needed. 1,500 to 2, 500 k cals are needed and depend on the physical activity levels of the athlete. A balanced diet that has plenty of carbohydrates, moderate protein and small amounts of fat is vital. More than the quantity of food, importance here is given to foods that are healthy and nutrient dense. Young females many a times suffer from eating disorders and should be made to understand the need to develop healthy eating habits. Sports nutrition diet tips should be shared regularly with all female gymnasts.
Carbohydrates- Many female gymnasts do their very best to maintain a low body weight as they feel this will benefit their sport. In order to achieve this, they follow popular low carbohydrate diets that do more bad than good. Eating insufficient carbs means early onset of fatigue and very low stamina levels. Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose for the muscles and brain to function well and should make up 60% of the day's total intake. Complex carbohydrates such as whole breads, unrefined cereals, starchy fruits and vegetables as well as energy drinks can be chosen from.
Proteins- 0.8 to 1 g of protein is needed to build muscles that are strong and flexible to keep up with the many hours of practice that is put before a game. Low fat dairy, lean meat, red meat ( with all excess fat trimmed) , eggs and beans are the best sources of proteins. These provide the body with high biological value amino acids that are mandatory for a female gymnast.
Fats- Trans fats found in fatty and junk food are to be strictly avoided and only unsaturated vegetable oils should be used. Olive oil should be preferred over margarine as it is full of heart friendly fatty acids.
Calcium- Female gymnasts are prone to bone related disorders if they do not consume sufficient calcium to meet their daily requirements. Snacks and meals rich in calcium should be eaten regularly. Dairy, leafy vegetables, fish with bones and calcium fortified food and beverages can all help to achieve an optimum calcium status.
Fluids- Since gymnastic exercises are performed indoors there is a low risk of fluid losses from sweat and heat. Nevertheless, sufficient hydration levels should be maintained. It is noted that many female gymnasts restrict their fluid intake inorder to weigh less. This should be discouraged as it can contribute to the eating disorders that are already rampant in this category of sportspersons.
First and foremost, Gabby keeps away from all junk and processed foods as she realizes that they can negatively impact her performance in the game. Her lunch and dinner consist of plenty of lean meat and lot of fresh green vegetables that are stir fried. A source of complex carbohydrate like bread and pasta is also added.
She drinks plenty of plain water to main good hydration level and never sugary fruit juices or sodas like other teens do. This is because too much sugar can increase fluid losses and lead to dehydration.
She favorite indulgence is dark chocolate,which she eats quite regularly. Low fat and antioxidant rich dark chocolate is definitely a better choice compared to regular varieties of chocolate.
Determination, belief and a healthy diet helped Gabby Douglas achieve her Olympics dream. She is a remarkable young woman and a role model for many aspiring athletes.
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