Nutrition Vertical Athlete Diet

Published on March 10th, 2013 | by Joe Starks


4 Facts Any Vertical Athlete Must Know About Diet

(This post does not attempt to compete with diet experts and other specialists in the field of nutrition. It’s just a down-to-earth examination of diet by a vertical coach with lots of hands-on experience)

So, your vertical training is perfectly spot-on, yet you see little (or no) improvement? If yes, then chances are that you may be eating wrongly. If you don’t eat the right stuff (or in the right quantities) for your vertical, you rob your body of its ability to recover, build stronger muscles and have the necessary energy to perform spectacular vertical leaps.

As diet is one of the main factors that define muscle development, it’s important to know what’s what when it comes to eating right to boost your training.

1: Food as energy

An average workout session for the pro athletes burns 800-1000 calories on average and that’s a lot of food. You simply need lots of energy to be able to function as an athlete, energy that only food can provide. Carbohydrates, protein and fats all give your body essential energy to keep moving. From those, carbs are easier to eat in pure form (see sugar, startches), fat has the most concentrated calorie content (up to 9 calories per gram, whereas protein and carbs have about 4 calories per gram). Protein, while it gives our bodies energy, should never be consumed alone as the body must always have a (small) reservoir of energy  stored in the form of fat and glucose in our blood; otherwise we risk of burning our muscles for energy if this reservoir is completely drained.

To maintain the perfect balance, you need to eat as much as you burn; not more, not less. (Unless you are on a fat-burning diet)

2: Food as building blocks for your muscles

With every workout, our muscles break down, little by little. This is completely natural and necessary for our muscle development, so don’t fret. Every time we even move our muscles, some fibers break and tear, our body sends out satellite cells that merge with our damaged muscle fibers, creating new and stronger versions of themselves. To ensure we have the necessary capacity to produce these satellite cells and consequently repair our muscles, we need protein. Period.

Protein is mainly found in meat, fish and eggs but can also be found in dairy products, milk and lentils. Fresh fish and lean meat are without a doubt the best sources of protein both because they provide protein in high concentration and because their protein has been proven to have the best absorption rates from the human body.

Protein is important for muscle development but by itself, protein is useless to us! Instead, when we eat proteins, our bodies break them down into amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Then our body uses these amino acids to build its own proteins that make up our bodies.

There are 20 amino acids in total and all of them, fall into two categories; essential amino acids and nonessential ones.

9 out of those 20 amino acids are considered essential because our body simply cannot produce them by itself, using other molecules, so we must take them from food or supplements in order to remain healthy. Our bodies can produce the other 11 amino acids by metabolizing other substances.

The essential amino acids for adult humans are:

  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine

(Kids also need 3 more amino acids to develop normally)

ALL amino acids are equally important, but our body just cannot synthesize the essential ones, so it’s important that our food includes proteins that break down into these nine precious substances.

So, some sources of protein are naturally better than others, thanks to them offering MORE essential and less nonessential protein. Red meat includes all 9 essential amino acids in high concentration while protein from plants is relatively poor in essential amino acids.

3: Vitamins and Micronutrients

Vitamins are organic molecules that are ABSOLUTELY necessary for a healthy life and the term micronutrients has come to refer to trace minerals and other substances our bodies need in miniscule quantities to function properly.

No matter how great your diet seems to be, no matter how perfect your diet is in terms of proteins and carbs, it is going to lead to poor health and subsequently to problems with your athletic performance if you aren’t taking the right micronutrients. It is virtually impossible to precisely control the vitamins and micronutrients you take, but generally speaking, a balanced diet will include everything you need. Contrary to popular belief, you can in fact eat “too much” vitamin, protein and other substances, so just gulping down supplements without restrain is NOT a good idea.

Trace minerals we absolutely must eat include:

  • Iron
  • cobalt
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Iodine
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Molybdenum 

4: Supplements!

Here’s a touchy subject for many. Supplements are poorly understood, blamed (sometimes rightfully so) and even demonized by many, without proper realization of what’s all about! There’s a lot of hype and controversy around these substances, as well as a stupefying amount of misinformation.

The truth:

Dietary (or nutritional) supplements are artificially created preparations designed to provide all kinds of nutrients that we normally take through food.These nutrients may include vitamins, minerals, fiber, fat and protein (as amino acids).

You can find everything supplements offer though in real food so think of dietary supplements as quick fixes or temporary solutions if you want to lose weight or tweak your diet in the short-term.

Supplements are not “evil” in themselves, but some people confuse them with performance-enhancing drugs (which are honestly BAD for any athlete). However, relying solely on supplements to make your diet balanced can lead to long-term problems with your digestive system so remember…

Moderation is KEY!

Photo Credit: FJT Photography

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