What, when and how of everyday eating for athletes
So what’s the big deal?
For any sport, at any age and level of competition, proper nutrition is crucial for supreme performance. Supply your body with the right nutrients and you’ll not only compete at a higher level, but recover more quickly after practice and maintain high energy levels.
Follow a proper diet and limit the amount of junk food consumed and you’ll tune your body to its best form and set a standard for a healthy lifestyle down the road.
SIMPLER THAN YOU EVER THOUGHT
Athletes need more calories and nutrients than people who do not exercise regularly – simple! Healthy eating on a budget doesn’t have to be difficult. Once you develop a habit of shopping for and cooking fresh foods you will never look back. Proper nourishment everyday will provide adequate energy (carbohydrate and fat), protein, vitamins, minerals, and water; all of which are essential for good health and athletic performance.
BREAKFAST – You need plenty of carbohydrates and protein for breakfast after a good night’s sleep. Some good food choices include fruit, oatmeal, whole-grain cereals, skimmed milk, eggs, turkey bacon and, for vegetarians in particular, soy products. Breakfast will help give you energy right from the start of the day. Eat a small snack two to three hours after breakfast to keep your energy levels high.
LUNCH – As an athlete who works out in the evening, your pre-workout meal should be well balanced and rich in carbohydrates, protein, fiber, healthy fats and vitamins. The key at lunchtime is to maximize the amount of nutrients you consume and not eat with less than 2h before your evening workout. Eat a low-calorie snack in mid-afternoon. An effective sample menu would include a chicken breast, green beans, whole-wheat bread or rice and a piece of fruit for dessert.
DINNER -Your final meal of the day, post workout, needs to consist of protein, fruits and/or vegetables (could be a rich, post workout protein shake). A chicken Caesar salad is also a nutritious source of protein, vitamins and minerals that is low in calories. As an athlete who’s looking to gain strength and muscle weight don’t be afraid of carbohydrates, especially if you are hungry, but avoid eating to late; you don’t want the carbohydrates keeping you awake at night.
When to eat?
Your body is constantly using energy, spiking its energy use during your workout. Your athletic diet should follow your energy use as closely as possible.
One of the biggest diet mistakes is waiting too long in between meals. If you wait till your stomach is grumbling, your body is already starving (decreased energy and recovery rate). Extreme hunger is usually countered with the next diet mistake, over-eating, which increases fat storage. One mistake usually leads to the other, putting your body in a vicious cycle of starvation (decreased metabolism) followed by periods of over-eating (fat gain).
Good diet plan of 6 meals a day
Smaller meals keep you energized and full throughout the day. Snacks keep you from starving during long workouts and in between meals Smaller meals keep your metabolism high while avoiding over-eating.
Eating smaller meals more closely matches your body’s energy use. Your biggest meals are in the mornings and the one before your workout. Smaller meals keep you satisfied without putting extra calories into you.
Example of breakfast/lunch/diner that meet the described criteria
Breakfast – Oatmeal (carbs), yogurt (protein) and 100% fruit juice
Lunch – Sandwich or sub with turkey and cheese (carbs and protein) and an apple Dinner: Grilled chicken (protein) rice (carbs) and broccoli
It’s not realistic or expected to eat 100% healthy with every meal, but limit the junk food to once or twice a week – the healthier you’ll eat the better you’ll feel and perform.
What to eat between meals?
Fruit, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, pretzels or crackers, sports bar and whole grain bagels.