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A Volleyball Player's Diet
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Volleyball players need a well-balanced diet to support physical performance and prevent sports-related injuries. Calorie and protein needs are slightly higher for volleyball players than the general public, however the same federal dietary guidelines apply. A healthy, well-balanced diet can meet the vitamin and mineral requirements of a volleyball player and eliminate the need for dietary supplements.
Volleyball players need more calories than the average person because they have a higher activity level. In general, male volleyball players need more calories than female volleyball players, and players between the ages of 14 and 50 will need more calories than players who are younger or older. Volleyball players can ensure they are getting enough calories by monitoring their weight and energy level. Weight gain may be a sign of excess calorie consumption, while unintentional weight loss and fatigue may signify a calorie deficit.
Volleyball players need an adequate amount of carbohydrates and protein because they are the muscles' primary source of energy. According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS), athletes need about 5 to 7 g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight and 1.2 to 1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins are the healthiest source of calories, carbohydrates and protein because they are packed with essential nutrients and are naturally low in fat.
Volleyball players should limit foods high in saturated and trans fats, added sugar and cholesterol. This includes fatty meats, deep-fried foods, processed or fast foods, sweets and pastries. These foods contribute to heart disease, diabetes and weight gain when consumed in excess.
Poor hydration can affect a volleyball player’s performance and even be life-threatening. The PCPFS says athletes should drink 14 to 20 oz. of fluid two hours prior to exercising and 6 to 12 oz. of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes while working out. Volleyball players can weigh themselves pre- and post-workout to determine their fluid loss and rehydrate after a workout with 16 to 20 oz. of fluid for every pound that is lost.
Water is the best beverage for hydration, but volleyball players who are active for more than an hour, live in a warm climate or sweat profusely may benefit from sports drinks. Sports drinks contain carbohydrates for energy and help replenish electrolytes that get lost in sweat. Electrolytes are minerals like sodium and potassium that regulate the muscles and heart.
The McKinley Health Center (MHC) says ergogenic aids are supplements used to enhance physical performance. Examples of ergogenic aids include amphetamines, steroids, amino acids, caffeine, chromium, coenzyme Q10, DHEA, energy gels and drinks, ephedrine, human growth hormone, protein and multivitamins.
The Mayo Clinic warns that ergogenic aids can have dangerous side effects, and many have not been scientifically proven to be safe or effective. Volleyball players should consult a physician prior to taking ergogenic aids because supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Certain ergogenic aids are also illegal and have been banned in sports arenas.
Carb and Protein Loading
Volleyball players may load up on carbohydrates (carbs) and protein to increase their endurance and build muscle mass, but the PCPFS says this is unnecessary for most athletes. Carb loading is more beneficial for athletes who participate in endurance sports that require more than 90 minutes of continuous activity, like marathons. While protein is important for building and maintaining muscle mass, the PCPFS says a diet that provides 1.0 to 1.5 g per kg of body weight is sufficient, and the best way to build muscle mass is to eat enough calories and train hard.
Bethany Fong is a registered dietitian and chef from Honolulu. She has produced a variety of health education materials and worked in wellness industries such as clinical dietetics, food service management and public health.