Track athletes need to develop speed, strength and endurance in order to meet their fitness and competition goals, and the types of foods they eat play a significant role in their performance. Whether they're sprinting or jumping hurdles, track athletes need to consume enough calories to fuel their running regimen and make sure that these calories are coming only from certain types of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Complex carbohydrates are an important part of any runner's diet because they provide a steady supply of energy for both short- and long-distance running events. Cool Running indicates that carbohydrates are converted into glycogen and then stored in the muscles until they are ready to be used for energy. Track athletes can fuel up with complex carbohydrates including oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat breads, cereals and other whole grains.
Runner's World lists salmon as one of the best foods for runners, indicating that this particular type of protein also contains omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation. Other good sources of protein for track athletes include chicken, turkey, tofu, beans and legumes, and low-fat dairy products.
Fats are important for runners and track athletes, because they help to slow down the rate of digestion and also satisfy the appetite. In "The Runner's Diet" on Runners World, Madelyn H. Fernstrom, Ph.D., C.N.S. recommends that runners aim to get 25 percent of their daily calories from good fats, such as oils, avocado, peanuts, peanut butter, light mayonnaise, light margarine, light cream cheese and olives.
Water and Sports Drinks
Staying well hydrated is a priority for track runners, and it's important to drink water and sports drinks before, during and after an event. Dehydration can cause muscle weakness and cramps and fatigue, and also puts the athlete at risk for injury or fainting. Drinking water throughout the day, and replenishing lost electrolytes and water with sports drinks after an intensive training session or event, can help the athlete maintain strength, endurance and stamina.
In the event that the track athlete can't eat a full meal during the day, consuming sports supplements can help. Sports bars contain many nutrients and minerals that are not present in certain types of foods, and they can be a source of quick energy. Energy gels can also provide a quick burst of energy, as they are concentrated sources of carbohydrates. Some sports drinks contain protein, and these can assist with muscle recovery after intensive training or a competition.
- salmon image by cherie from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.