You are what you eat!
If you are an athlete, you know how important feeling your best is to performance and training. The foods you consume act as the building blocks for your muscles, tissues and bones. Good nutrition is essential for supporting an athlete’s general health and provides you with enough energy and nutrients to meet the demands of training and exercise. What you eat gives you energy to practice and participate in competition, but the nutrients in food also help you recover from training and repair and build muscle.
When you are in training good nutrition involves more than just supplying enough calories to keep your energy up. You also must fuel your body with quality nutrients. You need knowledge and planning to eat right and optimize your performance and overall well-being. The most important thing to remember when creating a diet plan is that no one diet is right for every person or athlete. Athletes can be highly successful on a number of different diet plans with varying carbohydrates, fats and protein.
Most endurance athlete diets focus heavily on carbohydrates, which are the primary provider of energy for the body. Carbohydrates are an indispensable energy source during exercise or a high-intensity performance.
Regularly consume high-quality carbohydrates so that you not only get energy, but important nutrition and fiber. Whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, as well as vegetables, are good carbohydrate options for an athletic diet plan. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as pasta, bagels, whole grain breads, and rice. They provide energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A little more than half of your calories should come from carbohydrates. You need to eat carbohydrates before you exercise if you will be exercising for more than 1 hour. You might have a glass of fruit juice, a cup of yogurt, or an English muffin with jelly.
Carbohydrates aren’t the only important nutrient in an athletic meal plan. The protein and fat needs of athletes are just as important.
Protein is important for muscle growth and to repair body tissues. Protein can also be used by the body for energy, but only after carbohydrate stores have been used up. Active bodies need protein to help repair and grow muscle fibers stressed during activity. Protein foods include lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy, soy and nuts. Spread your intake of protein out through the day, with an emphasis on a good dose of 20 to 30 grams post-exercise to support muscle repair and growth.
WATER AND OTHER FLUIDS
Water is the most important nutrient for athletes. Water and fluids are essential to keep the body hydrated and at the right temperature. Your body can lose several liters of sweat in an hour of vigorous exercise. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids with every meal, whether or not you will be exercising.
Drink about 2 cups of water 2 hours before a workout. It is important to start exercising with enough water in your body. Continue to sip water during and after you exercise. Water is best for the first hour. Switching to an energy drink after the first hour will help you get enough electrolytes. Drink even when you no longer feel thirsty.
Fats Are Necessary Too
Fats, especially monounsaturated fats, are an essential source of energy. They support healthy skin and hair, brain cell growth and absorption of essential nutrients. Be cautious with fat, however, as eating a lot of it — especially prior to practice or a game — can make you feel sluggish. Fat slows digestion. When you eat fats, choose avocado, nuts, olive oil or fatty fish.
Learn more about nutrition for athletes: