One of the most common pieces of advice that athletes receive is that they need to match their calorie input to the number of calories that they burn because they tend to burn many more calories than the average person. But what isn’t as commonly mentioned is that it’s not just about the number of calories that the athlete is getting, but also the quality and nutritional value of those calories, which we generally measure in terms of vitamins and minerals.
Regular exercise can put a lot of strain on the body, which is why it’s so important that an athlete ensures that they don’t develop any deficiencies. Many of the deficiencies that athletes tend to suffer from might not be evident at first, but can ultimately cause health issues down the line, and can sometimes even be permanent.
A Vitamin D deficiency is widely regarded as one of the most common deficiencies in the world. One of the reasons for this is because people simply don’t spend enough time outside getting sunlight. In fact, it’s estimated that those people living in developed countries spend more than 90% of their day inside. Vitamin D is absolutely vital for long-term health, and without adequate amounts of it, the body can’t function properly.
One of the first ways that this deficiency impacts the body is by disabling the proper absorption of calcium, but it can also suppress immune function greatly. While a supplement can help, most experts recommend getting around 20 minutes of direct exposure to sun every day.
Closely linked to Vitamin D, but also vital in its own right, lack of calcium is another deficiency that has become much more common in recent years. Athletes tend to suffer from this more than most, as calcium is secreted when sweating occurs.
There are a lot of sources of calcium, but dairy products are not the best idea – in fact, some studies have shown that milk is linked with increased fractures as the body battles to absorb the calcium from milk. The best source of calcium can be found in dark, leafy greens, such as spinach and kale – so consider making a green smoothie to gulp down during morning rounds of getting lunch ready or playing online slots.
Iron deficiencies are incredibly common among athletes, but even more so among female athletes. Iron is needed for the correct oxygenation ratios within the blood, but it’s used in a number of other bodily functions. There’s no doubt that iron is most readily available from animal products, but it’s just as easy to get adequate amounts of iron from plants, such as beans.
One tip to keep in mind for vegetarian and vegan athletes is to avoid drinking teas containing tannins at least an hour before or eating iron-rich foods, as the tannins can cause issues with iron absorption.
Magnesium is an important micronutrient that helps the body with relaxing and for enjoying quality sleep. While a magnesium supplement can help, nutritionists recommend getting enough magnesium for food sources, with avocados, nuts, bananas, and tofu being some of the very best sources of this micronutrient around.