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With the days getting longer and the trees and plants beginning to bud out, springtime is officially here. And with it comes more time outdoors as spring sports kick into high gear.

Any athlete knows that the right food choices can optimize performance in both sport and play while laying the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle. However, the calorie and nutrient needs of an athlete are individually dependent on their body size, the demand of the particular sport, position they play, how intensely they train and how long they engage in activity each day. Still, when focusing on nutrition, a few tips remain the same regardless of the sport – “Rehydrate and Carbohydrate” – two priority areas for spring athletics.

Rehydrate: Water should be an athlete’s best friend because drinking enough fluids can improve performance and prevent illness. There are many recommendations for how much water any one person should drink during the day; however, the best way to ensure proper hydration is with a quick peek at your urine. Urine should always be pale yellow in color – darker urine serves as a warning sign that the body is not getting enough liquids.

A good rule of thumb is to drink 1-2 cups of fluid with meals – water, milk and 100% juice all count. Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day and sip on it regularly. Take a break every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise and drink two to three big gulps of water.

Did you know that milk is nearly 90 percent water, which is why it functions as a great post-exercise go-to? Milk also rehydrates your body with natural electrolytes, which are lost with sweat and provides protein to jump-start your body’s muscle recovery post-exercise. Don’t forget to grab a glass of chocolate milk after exercise as a means of rehydrating the body.

Carbohydrate: Many athletes are inaccurately advised to avoid “carbohydrates.” Unfortunately, this message can have a negative impact on performance since carbohydrates provide nutrients as well as energy. It is recommended that most athletes eat at least 60 percent of their calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are foods such as grains (breads, tortillas, bagels, rice, noodles, etc.), as well as fruits and vegetables. This recommendation is easily followed when athletes eat the MyPlate way – filling half of their plate with colorful fruits and vegetables and a quarter of their plate with grains, making sure to choose whole grains more often.

Many athletes benefit from balanced eating and additional carbohydrate-rich snacks throughout the day. Some healthy carbohydrate-rich snacks include:

  • Peanut butter and banana wrapped in a whole-grain tortilla
  • Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese
  • Yogurt topped with berries and a sprinkle of granola
  • Bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk
  • Fruit and yogurt smoothie – get creative with this Create-a-Smoothie guide

Athletes can train harder and perform better with proper nutrition. Visit http://westerndairyassociation.org/health-and-nutrition/milk-and-sports-nutrition/ to read more about milk as an exercise recovery beverage and learn how to eat for peak athletic performance.

*All information associated with the Western Dairy Association “Nutriton Corner” is sponsored by Western Dairy Association as a partnership with University of Denver Athletics & Recreation, and not provided by trainers or staff of the Coors Fitness Center.

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