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By Michael Jacobs
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 12, 1997

Diet a key to peak athletic performance

To answer the bell for the 12th round, athletes need to make sure they have the right fuel.

"You want to stress carbohydrates with athletes, because it is the energy source used by the body first," said Vanessa Stanford, a UA research dietitian who works with campus athletes. Depending on the sport, she said, 55 to 70 percent of the calories burned during exercise are from carbohydrates.

However, Stanford said, carbohydrates are not the only energy source athletes need.

"A diet in just carbohydrate rich foods would fail to cover nutrients that would be missing from fat and protein," Stanford said. "Therefore, it is important to eat a variety of foods."

One recommendation by Stanford is for athletes to budget about five fruits and vegetables a day into their diet.

"Athletes need to get an adequate amount of calories to obtain peak performance, growth and repair of the body, because they are putting their bodies through a lot of stress," Stanford said. She said athletes need to find diets that work for them.

One UA student said variety adds spice to her diet.

"I eat some meats, vegetables and bread. Subway is my favorite fast food chain. I think that students at the U of A are overly concerned about fat intake," said Mandy Schreiner, a junior majoring in marketing.

Stanford also stressed the importance of keeping hydrated during athletic performance.

"Athletic performance can be affected by fluid hydration. Thirst is not a good indicator of hydration," Stanford said. "Lost water equals lost weight. For every pound of body weight lost during physical activity, the athlete would have to replenish the equivalent of two cups of water. The loss of water decreases performance."

Linda Houtkooper, an associate specialist in nutritional sciences at the UA, gives campus athletes health advice and conducts research on nutrition.

"Studies have shown that athletes performing high intensity exercises can increase their performance if they consume higher amounts of fluid and carbohydrates at regular intervals of the exercise," Houtkooper said.

"The timing and volume of fluid and carbohydrate intake is extremely important," Houtkooper said.

"Performance can be increased by only a few seconds, but that could be the difference between winning and losing," she said.

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