How are different sports beneficial/detrimental to certain body types?
I have been looking into many aspects of different sports, specifically their athletes, and focusing on body stereotypes. Last week, I went into a bit of a side topic: injuries and physiotherapy. Today's post will also be a side topic, building on last week's. I will focus on dietary aspects of this research. This means the diets of professional athletes vs those that aren't professional, and compare the effects this may have in their training.
The food consumption of an average American (in calories) is truly astonishing. According to the website (1), American citizen's diets are about 12% plant food (including fruits & veggies, grains, seeds), 25% animal food (meat, dairy, eggs), and 63% processed foods. What are processed foods? They are basically any food that have been altered in some way. They're not necessarily always unhealthy, they could have just been frozen, dried, baked, etc. But, more times than not, they are made to be extremely unhealthy by containing high levels of salt, sugar, and fat. (2) And the fact that these foods are the majority of the average American's diet could truly affect their performance in sports. And this is not only in America, in Canada, statistics have proven that eating habits with milk, meat, and plant food are much better here. However, we also have this problem with processed foods, as research has shown that 22% of adult's diets and 25% of teen's diets are made up of these harmful foods. (3)
How Processed Foods Affect Performance
One of the biggest downfalls of diets that consist mainly of processed foods is that they will make your energy peak and then send it crashing down. For maximum performance in sports, you will need a small amount of fat to get your blood sugar down, and a meal rich in carbohydrates that includes meat. Try eating a banana as well to get your energy up. (4) Most junk foods contain Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) that enhances flavor and color. However, the consumption of this ingredient can cause headaches and muscle weakness, so it can hamper your performance in sports. (5,6) Also, almost all junk foods contain processed fat, which can build up in your arteries and lead to heart disease. (6) So, obviously, processed foods are not the healthiest option and should not be considered if you are looking to do exercise or to be a serious athlete. Which leads on to the next idea;
Diet of a Professional Athlete
Before explaining what healthy choices athletes make and how it helps them in their performance, let me show you two very different diets of two very different athletes:
Ashton Eaton, age 29, Heptathlon: Eggs, Turkey bacon, Toast, Greek yogurt, Whole wheat sandwich, Bowl of chicken soup, Salmon, rice, corn and green beans, Granola bar, Banana, Protein shake (7)
Michael Phelps, age 32, Swimming: Lunch: 1 pound of enriched pasta, 2 large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo on white bread, 1000 calories in energy drinks. Dinner: 1 pound of pasta, 1 entire pizza, More energy drinks (7)
Ashton consumes 2,600 calories a day. Michael consumes 12,000. As you can see, there is a great difference between these two athletes. Michael consumes so many calories because, since he is swimming constantly, he is burning calories on the go. Just like cyclists who also are constantly working, these calories must be re-plenished. So, while Michael's diet is not very healthy, it works for his sport because what he needs is the energy to keep going. Ashton, on the other hand, consumes almost 10,000 less calories. For his sport, he focuses on clean eating. This means bright-coloured veggies, healthy fats with omega-3, and carbohydrates that are slow-burning so that he has enough energy to give those last pushes of effort at the end of a workout. Clearly, every athlete has a different diet depending on their sport. In general, healthy eating is extremely important, but the main goal for these people who are constantly training and constantly working to their limits is to re-fill their energy so that they can keep going.
Similarities & Differences
Based on the statistics of all of US and those of simply two Olympians, it is not possible to strictly give you a meal plan for each person. Every athlete has a specific diet that coincides with their sport while every person has their own diet as well. The main difference is that athletes avoid processed foods while the average population does not. Those who train for sports at a high level understand that they need all the energy they can have and by eating processed foods, which mostly contain MSG as I mentioned before, that energy cannot be achieved the correct way. And, on top of that, it can cause a variety of health products. So, my question to everyone who is reading this is: if more people were involved and dedicated in sports, would the consumption of processed foods decrease?
To conclude this post, I would like to thank everyone who has commented and helped me on moving my research forward! For my next, and final, post, I will be tying all the ends of my research in one last conclusion after talking about genetic disorders and disabilities. I want to explain how these things affect people's performance in sports. Thanks again for reading and for any feedback!