Whether you’re a pro athlete or a weekend warrior, you need to eat like an athlete because what you eat has an impact on how well you perform.
When you’re really active, you can burn through a lot of calories – so much so, that it often seems there’s no way to satisfy your appetite. Pre workout and post workout can often be the danger time: when your appetite is out-of-control, it’s tempting to let yourself eat whatever you want – thinking that you will ‘burn it off’ later. Remember though – even when your calorie needs are high, you don’t have license to eat foods with little nutritional value.
To eat like an athlete you need to think about food differently. Ask yourself about the benefits of a particular food: is it protein or carb based, does it contain the nutrients you need? You can’t let yourself be tempted by only thinking about the taste, or by constantly giving into cravings for sweet or fatty food.
Getting fueled up for activity means having the right pre workout meals, staying hydrated, and properly refueling after an event or workout. If you’re a picky eater, meeting these goals can be challenging, so think about your athletic aims and keep in mind that that a healthy diet is vital for a good performance.
An athlete’s body is like an engine – one that needs the right fuel to run properly. Healthy carbohydrates – from fruits, vegetables and grains (like whole grain breads, crackers, cereals or pasta) – are the body’s preferred source of fuel. They help to not only sustain exercise, but they are needed afterwards to help replenish body stores.
The body also needs healthy lean proteins – from foods like lean meats, poultry, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs and soybeans – to help build and repair muscles after exercising, and small amounts of healthy fats (from foods like avocados or nuts) to help meet calorie needs.
Try these basic tips for healthy eating to keep you properly ‘fueled up’ for exercise:
Before a workout
You need to ‘top off the tank’ with some carbohydrates to provide energy. The best choices are foods that are easy to digest like a fruit smoothie, a carton of yogurt or a small bowl of cereal and milk. Keep meals low in fat so they’ll be easy to digest.
Staying hydrated is key. Water is fine if you’re exercising for less than an hour, but ahydration drink is great for extended exercise or when the weather is particularly hot or humid.
It’s important to refuel muscles with some healthy carbohydrates and protein. Chocolate milk is an all-time favorite recovery food since it provides fluid, potassium, carbohydrates and protein – all of which the body craves after activity. Other great post-exercise foods are sandwiches, fruits, yogurt and smoothies.
Your body needs fiber, but it’s best to eat high-fiber foods after exercise, rather than before, to avoid stomach distress. Save the wholegrain breads and pastas for after your game, race or workout.
If you have high calorie needs, make healthy higher calorie choices that are also nutrient-rich like nuts, 100% fruit juices, dried fruits, peanut butter and trail mix