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Aside from training, nutrition may be the most important influence on athletic performance.1 However, in seeking a competitive edge, athletes are often susceptible to fad diets or supplements that have not been scientifically validated. Nevertheless, there is much useful research to guide the exerciser toward optimum health and performance.
Many athletes use exercise and weight-modifying diets as tools to change their body composition, assuming that a lower percentage of body fat and/or higher lean body mass is desirable in any sport. There is no single standard for body weight and body composition that applies to all types of athletic activities. Different sports, even different roles in the same sport (e.g., running vs. blocking in football), require different body types. These body types are largely determined by genetics. However, within each athlete’s genetic predisposition, variations result from diet and exercise that may affect performance. In general, excess weight is a disadvantage in activities that require quickness and speed. However, brief, intense bursts of power depend partly on muscle size, so this type of activity may favor athletes with greater muscle mass. On the other hand, participants in endurance sports, which require larger energy reserves, should not attempt to lower their body fat so much as to compromise their performance.2
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.