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How Can Bad Nutrition Affect an Athlete?

Athletic performance pushes your body to the edge. Progress is accomplished by progressively stressing your body and allowing it to recover. If you do not receive adequate nutrition from your diet, this recovery is not possible. As you continue to train, stress, fatigue and metabolic waste will accumulate in your body.


POOR PERFORMANCE

Training and competition require large amounts of energy, which comes from carbohydrates, fats and protein in your body. If you do not consume enough of these macronutrients from your diet, your body will not be able to perform at a peak level of performance. Strength training relies primarily on carbohydrates for energy. Your muscles break down their own protein to fuel themselves during intense training. Endurance training consumes both fats and carbohydrates.


FEMALE ATHLETES

Female athletes that fail to maintain adequate nutrition may cease menstruating until the nutritional deficits are corrected. Hair, skin and nail health may also be compromised. The levels of growth and sex hormones, such as testosterone, are drastically decreased with prolonged nutritional deficits. Malnutrition also places you at greater risk of many other diseases and health problems.

LONGER RECOVERY TIMES

Training induces controlled levels of damage in your muscles. Your body rebuilding stronger muscles is what leads to growth in muscle mass and increased strength and endurance. The first two hours after training are the most critical for exercise recovery, according to nutritionist Dr. John Berardi. The demand remains high for at least 24 hours after training. If nutritional demands are not met during this period, recovery will be prolonged over days or weeks.


IMMUNE SUPPRESSION

Training produces stress hormones in your body. In the short term, these trigger your body to release energy stores such as body fat and increase the triggers for growth.

However, if the levels of stress hormones remain high, the functionality of your immune system is impaired. Low blood sugar due to depleted liver glycogen -- carbohydrate energy stores -- is particularly influential on stress hormone levels and immune function. However, according to a study published in the "Nutrition Journal" in 2014, overconsumption of certain carbohydrates (like those in processed foods). Eat a well-balanced diet attuned to the demands of your body mass and the carbohydrate demands of your activity level.


WEIGHT CHANGES


Though weight changes may be the intention of your training, unintended and potentially dangerous weight changes can occur with poor nutrition. With continued training, you will lose muscle mass without proper nutrition. You may gain or lose body fat at an unhealthy pace as well, depending on the particulars of your diet, training and genetics.

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