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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • July 2018
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Do you want to gain a competitive edge?

By changing your nutrition, you can achieve a continuous flow of energy, leading to an athletic performance that is longer, stronger, faster, and quicker! Athletes of all shapes and sizes need to pay attention to what goes into their body and how they are fueling up before the big game.

We’ve all heard that before a game or tournament we need to “carb load,” drink extra fluids with electrolytes (usually a sports drink) or consume a lot of fruit to give us quick energy. Unfortunately, that advice is not helpful when you want your energy to remain stable for prolonged periods of time. You may feel a quick burst of energy but that will be followed by a dip, which could lead to a decline in athletic performance, mental slowness, fatigue, jittery, lightheadedness, craving more sweets, and feeling down right miserable. During a game or athletic performance is not the time we want to be feeling this.

Sugar is one of those sneaky substances that you might ingest too much of without knowing. A 32-ounce sports drink has 56 grams of sugar, not to mention artificial food colorings, artificial flavoring and brominated vegetable oil! That really doesn’t sound like a sports drink worth drinking. Along with the typical sugary sports drink, many young athletes are eating snacks from the concession stand or grabbing a quick bite to eat between games. Most of those food selections are made up of processed/refined carbs (white breads, pretzels, chips), vegetable oils (soybean oil, canola oil) and lacking a good amount of protein. These foods are not only unhealthy because of their ingredients, but also the meal in general is not balanced. Not having enough protein (which is what our bodies need after a tough game or workout to help repair and grow muscles) unhealthy fats and too many carbs, will leave our bodies feeling sluggish. It is important to eat a balanced meal. For example, 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 40 percent carbohydrates. This will help keep our blood sugar regulated, energy constant and we’ll be able to focus on our athletic performance.

Dangers of processed and refined sugars and carbohydrates

Here is a brief explanation on what too much sugar and refined carbohydrates does to your blood sugar. According to The Whole Journey, “Blood sugar refers to glucose carried in the blood stream. Glucose is the immediate source of energy for all of the body’s cells. The levels of glucose in the blood are monitored by the pancreas and are tightly regulated by several hormones. The body has the ability to store glucose in the form of glycogen in the muscles and the liver. When sugar or refined carbs are digested, they are initially absorbed in the small intestine. However, they do not enter the blood circulation directly and have to go to the liver first.

“Under hormone control, the liver will release an appropriate amount of sugar into the blood stream to make it available to other cells, especially the brain... the body’s natural response to deal with the sugar overload is to release insulin into the blood stream to uptake the sugar molecules. However, the body doesn’t always know when to stop releasing insulin, which can then create low blood sugar, and that is what we call ‘the crash.’ When the body’s blood sugar is low, moodiness, irritability, and cravings come into play making you eat more sugar and thus promoting a vicious cycle... sugars aren’t the only culprit. Simple and refined carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, and potatoes are also broken down into simple sugar molecules once they hit the small intestine, creating a similar response in the body.”

So you may be wondering how to fuel your body in order to get the best athletic performance and have constant energy throughout the game. Fueling with nutrient-dense foods that are low in sugar, not processed and properly balanced are the most ideal. So what does that mean, carbohydrates before and after a workout or game, good quality protein and healthy fats? All of these macronutrients should be consumed (Again, I recommend 30 percent fats, 30 percent protein and 40 percent carbs) to keep blood sugar balanced.

Some examples of each of these are:

  • Carbohydrates: Carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, rice, bananas, apples, berries.
  • Protein: Beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, bacon, fish.
  • Fats: Nut butters, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, almonds, cashews.

Keep in mind, using a protein powder after a workout or in between games can also be useful, but look for a powder without too many additives, sugar and with a grass-fed whey source.

When eating a balanced diet of proteins, fats and carbohydrates (whole foods low in sugar) you will have energy, stamina and an athletic performance that will be sure to make you stand out! 

Reference: “Eight steps to balancing blood sugar.” The Whole Journey.

Katie Jackson

Katie Jackson, Nutrition Therapy Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer, is the owner of Foundational Nutrition in Appleton. She offers either local or remote consults. For more information, call 920-257-9964, email [email protected] or visit

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