When you are a competitive athlete, highly trained and highly motivated like everyone else in your event, what can push you beyond your competitors is diet. According to Amanda Carlson, sports nutritionist for Athletic Performance, “Nutrition can make a good athlete great or a great athlete good.”
Although every athlete can benefit from an individualized nutrition plan, there are some general guidelines to live by. Every athlete should follow these simple 10 rules:
- Come Back to Earth: Choose the least processed forms of food such as fruits, veggies, whole grains and other high fiber carbohydrates.
- Eat a Rainbow Often: Eat fruits and vegetables with each meal. Choose a wide variety of colors for the biggest benefit. Natural anti-inflammatories are found in fruits and vegetables, so keep a constant source of these in your system. Because different colors serve different roles in the body you should aim for at least 3 colors at every meal.
- Include a Lean Protein Source with Each Meal: The easiest way to determine protein needs is to calculate daily requirements based on current body weight. A general recommendation is 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 15-20 percent of total calories for both endurance athletes and strength athletes.
- Eat Healthy Fats: Include healthy fats in your diet such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and flaxseed oil.
- Three for Three: Eat smaller portions more often and spread these evenly across the day. Athletes MUST eat 4-6 meals per day!
- Eat Breakfast Every Day: Eating within 30 minutes of waking up jump starts your metabolism and gives you more sustained energy throughout your day.
- Stay Hydrated: Of all the rules this is the MOST IMPORTANT. Dehydration leads to decreased performance. Drink at least 3 liters (33 ounces are in one liter) of fluid every day. Specifically athletes need 0.5-1 ounce per pound of body weight per day. If you are thirsty, it’s too late – you are already dehydrated. Evaluate your urine. It should be light in color, resembling pale lemonade. Alcohol consumption should not count as a fluid and can decrease performance potential up to 11.4 percent.
- Don’t Waste Your Workout: Have a post-workout recovery meal or shake that combines both carbs and protein immediately after you train. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on carbohydrate rich foods. Happy muscle cells are carb loaded.
- Supplement Wisely: Fuel first and supplement second. Before you take any type of supplement, check with your doctor or registered dietitian to ensure it’s a quality product, it has been tested for sport and how it might affect your overall performance.
- Sleep: Aim for 8 hours of sleep at night or try to fit in power naps when you can. Most of the body’s recovery and repair occurs when sleeping.
Improving your nutrition will increase your energy and enhance your performance, so make it a goal to eat to be great!
Reference: Athletes Performance Fueling Guide