Food & Nutrition for Athletes

Food has to be one of life’s great pleasures. For an athlete, it becomes vital to consume healthy foods for optimal performance. Here are some ‘food’ tips for athletes:

Eat breakfast.
Of all the nutritional mistakes you could make, skipping breakfast is the biggest.  Muscle glycogen (main way the body stores glucose for later use) levels are typically lower when you wake up in the morning, so you need to replenish by consuming food. Any breakfast is better than no breakfast and a nutritious, high-carb breakfast is best for athletes.

Simple carbohydrates before, during, and after exercise.
Complex carbohydrates (breads, pastas, starches) are great, but don’t forget that value of consuming simple carbohydrates during exercise or competition.

Simple Carbohydrates: found in fruit (bananas, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe), beverages (sports drinks like Gatorade), or snacks (granola bars) can give you energy quickly because they are more readily available to be absorbed by the body. Since these carbohydrates are to be used for energy right away, it’s best to consume them before, during, or immediately after you exercise. 

Eat every two to three hours throughout the day.
It’s a good idea to eat a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates throughout the day. Even if just small snacks, eating and drinking throughout the day can help prevent your performance from suffering due to dehydration, severe electrolyte losses, and loss of energy do to muscle glycogen (storage of glucose for later use) depletion. Combine your carbohydrate with protein. For example cheese and crackers or apple and peanut butter.

Drink plenty of water.
Water can definitely be the most important factor effecting sports performance. Not only is it a good idea to drink throughout the day, but also drink a few days or throughout the week before a race or big competition to acclimate your body. On the flip side, make sure you are also consuming nutrient rich foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low fat dairy (milk, cheese and yogurt). You might be surprised to know your fluid (water) needs. Take you weight (in pounds) and divide by two and that is about how many ounces of fluid you need. If you are getting strenuous exercise, you will need even more!

Post exercise nutrition drink, snack, or meal.
After intense exercise it is important to eat to help your body recover for your next workout. It’s a good time to consume carbohydrates and protein within at least 30 minutes post exercise. One of my favorite recovery foods is low fat chocolate milk. Low-fat chocolate milk naturally has many of the nutrients most commercial recovery drinks have to add in the lab – including high-quality protein and key electrolytes like calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium.


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