Athletes need more vitamins and minerals than the average person. This is to ensure their bodies are well equipped for the demanding effects of sports. To ensure you can perform at your fullest you should have a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. Include foods full of calcium, iron, potassium, and fiber. Key vitamins, such as A, C, and E are also required to ensure a good nutrient balance. Try to stay away from junk foods, which are an empty source of calories, instead, focus your attention on lean meats, whole grains, and a good mixture of fruits and vegetables.
Many players still do not understand the importance of having a healthy diet. One analogy I like to use when explaining this important point to my young students is that your body is like a car and nutrients and minerals are like the fuel needed to make it run. This works almost every time although I usually get a few super-smart kids asking what about the battery, tires, oils, and other stuff.
In this regard, each athlete will require different amounts and types of nutrients to satisfy their individual needs. In general, you need to replace the number of calories you burn each day. Calories measure the energy you get from food. The average person requires anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 calories per day, however, for table tennis athletes this number can increase by 500 to 1,000 more.
Calories come in different forms, the main types are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
- Carbohydrates (carbs) are your body’s biggest source of calories. Simple carbs like glucose, fructose, sucrose, and fruit juice concentrate are easier for your body to break down. They provide quick bursts of energy, while complex carbs take longer for your body to break down but are a better source of energy over time. Complex carbs in whole-grain products such as whole-grain bread, potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, and kidney beans are the most nutritious. Nutritionists recommend that 55% to 60% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates.
- Fat is another important source of calories. In small amounts, fat is a key fuel source. It serves other functions, such as supporting good skin and hair. It’s not recommended to replace carbs in your diet with fats. This can slow you down because your body has to work harder to burn fat for energy. Fat intake for an athlete should range between 20-35% of total daily calories. Nutritionists recommend that 10% of fat intake should come from monounsaturated sources, 10% from polyunsaturated sources, and no more than 10% from saturated fat.
- Protein should make up the remaining 10% to 15% of your daily calories. Protein is found in foods like meat, eggs, milk, beans, and nuts. Many athletes think they should consume large amounts of protein. While protein helps build muscles, over time, high dosage can be harmful as the digestion process can put a strain on your liver and kidneys.
The human body is made up of nearly 60% water. During training you quickly lose fluid when you sweat so staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do. Feeling thirsty is a sign of dehydration so it’s important not to wait until you are thirsty to drink. A good rule of thumb is to take a mouth full or two at least every 15 to 20 minutes. For short events lasting less than an hour, water is a great choice to replenish what you lose by sweating. However, for longer endeavors, you may benefit from a sports drink as they are usually packed with much-needed electrolytes and carbohydrates. Be sure to do some research on which brand you pick as I found many deliver unneeded calories. Some contain 150 calories (the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar). So be sure to do some research before.
Seek the advice of a nutritionist
As a table tennis athlete, you need lots of energy and nutrients to keep your body in top shape to coop with the rigorous demands of training and competition. Because of this, incorrect diet plans can hurt your ability and be harmful to your health. Without the calories from carbs, fat, and protein, you may not have enough strength to perform at your best. Nevertheless not eating enough can also lead to malnutrition. My advice to any athlete who is serious about their sports career is to seek the help of a nutritionist or doctor before making major nutrition changes.