Nutrient Needs of Athletes
The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) developed by the IOM establish nutrient recommendations for the U.S. population, and this includes recommended vitamin and mineral intakes. The Recommended Dietary
Allowance (RDA) is the dietary intake level adequate for 98 percent of the healthy U.S. population, and when there is insufficient research an Adequate Intake (AI) is established until more research is available. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the maximum amount of a nutrient that can be consumed without any adverse effects.
There is a question as to whether or not the recommended micronutrient intakes established by the DRIs are sufficient to meet the needs of athletes. There is some argument that athletes have increased needs, at least for some nutrients, given the increased demands placed upon their bodies as a result of training and competition. In general, if an athlete consumes a balanced and varied diet as proposed by Post 6 and meets the increased energy needs, then in most cases, athletes will consume an appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals to meet their needs. This emphasizes the importance in educating athletes on focusing on nutrient-dense food choices.
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Meeting individual nutrient needs also illustrates the importance of sufficient calories and individual macronutrients. Indeed, athletes with a restrictive intake that do not meet their energy needs are also at greater risk for an inadequate consumption of macronutrients and micronutrients. In a review that examined the nutrient intake of athletes, it was found that individuals with a low energy consumption were more likely to have an inadequate intake of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B12 (Economos, Bortz, and Nelson 1993); this finding has been corroborated by other research as well (Beals 2002; Gropper, Sorrels, and Blessing 2003).
While the questionable benefits of supplement use was addressed in Post 7, it is appropriate to reiterate that if an athlete’s diet is characterized by nutrient-dense food choices and include sufficient energy, then the athlete is likely to be consuming sufficient vitamins and minerals. In this case, a multivitamin or other nutrient supplement would not be warranted. If, however, the athlete is on an energy-restricted diet, thereby making it harder to meet their nutrient needs, consuming a multivitamin would be judicial for ensuring AI, as long as it does not exceed DRI values.
The purpose of the following information is to highlight nutrients of concern for athletes and to provide relevant recommendations. Specific attention will be paid to nutrients essential for bone health, given the demands that sports may place on the musculoskeletal system; and iron status in athletes, due to the higher prevalence of iron deficiency among athletes.
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