Weight loss routines are a highly sought-after commodity these days. In addition to the cosmetics of weight loss (e.g., making people feel as if their clothes fit properly), there is growing evidence that it offers significant health benefits. This is especially true for individuals who have a high body mass index or high levels of body fat. This is especially important for athletes. Extra weight increases stress on the joints, muscles and cardiovascular system which cannot only reduce performance, but increases risk of injury.
Athletes, however, are exposed to the same dietary risks as non-athletes. The convenience of fast-food and carbohydrate-rich snacks that can be loaded with chemicals, preservatives, hormones and other ingredients can have negative effects on health. These effects may be especially risky for athletes during the post-season, when they are less likely to burn off these extra calories at levels that take place during the in-season. Relaxation and recovery can also include temptations to relax dietary discipline, which can result in extra weight while also detracting from fitness levels. Therefore, the combination of relaxed dietary practices and reduced physical activity can have relatively similar effects on even the best conditioned athletes as less-fit individuals. These results include increases in cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and, in some cases, insulin resistance.
Therefore, athletes must not become influenced by temptations to believe that weight loss can result from one process, one activity, one pill, or one exercise. Two principles are emerging as critical components of any weight loss strategy. First, increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR)—the rate at which your body burns energy when you are completely at rest. Second, build lean muscle mass, which is important because it leads to an increase in metabolism and the burning of body fat. An intelligent diet, even in the post-season, can help you maintain proper body weight. More importantly, by increasing your knowledge of nutrition, you can still enjoy eating a reasonable quantity of tasty food without incurring health risks.
Fitness experts agree that people can effectively manage weight by making changes in what they eat, how much they eat, and when and how often they eat. Most experts recommend consuming several small meals per day rather than three large ones. These include the following:
1. Protein-rich breakfast
2. Midmorning snack
3. Protein-packed nutritious lunch
4. Midafternoon snack
5. Protein- and vegetable-rich dinner
Some athletes and fitness enthusiasts consume up to eight meals and snacks per day. Most competitive athletes eat five to six meals and snacks per day. This may seem like a lot of food, but research has found that consuming multiple small meals and nutritious snacks each day boosts metabolism. Ideally, you should eat every two hours, the approximate feeding cycle of infants! These multiple meals also help your body maintain healthy levels of blood sugar, thus helping to prevent cravings. Cravings can lead to consumption of high levels of high-glycemic and high-fat foods that cause undesired weight gain. Because of the significance of muscle mass in metabolism—and the fact that increased metabolism regulates weight—most experts suggest that people consume sufficient levels of protein per pound of body weight. Protein requirements can be determined by the demands of your sport. Some bodybuilders, for example, attempt to consume 1 gram of protein for each pound of body weight. Ideally, most athletes should strive for at least a half gram of protein for each pound of body weight. These portions reduce the prospects of catabolism, the breakdown of protein for energy, which can negatively impact performance, immune system function, and psychological well-being. You should also reduce your carbohydrate consumption to about 30 percent of your diet and your fat consumption to an even lower percentage. In addition, it is recommended that you consume 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day. Fiber consumption reduces cravings, protects against high cholesterol, and contributes to the overall health of your digestion and elimination system.