Sports Nutrition: Optimal Fuel for Optimal Fitness

You’ve got your training down to a science, never missing a workout, scheduling regular rest days, religiously recording every workout, yet something still seems to be missing in your program. Have you examined your training diet lately? You might be in the best shape of your life, but if you’re not eating for peak performance you may not be reaching your full athletic potential.

Many athletes still do not realize that what they eat determines how well they perform. Others recognize the importance of sports nutrition, but get lazy when it comes to preparing meals and eating wisely. Other athletes eat well but have gotten into a nutrition rut by eating the same foods day after day. One of the reasons I became a nutritionist is that I discovered myself how much the quality of my diet affected my performance – almost as much as my training did.

Whichever category you fall into, now is a good time to take a nutrition inventory and clean up your training table. A nutritious diet can improve your recovery from hard workouts and possibly increase your performance. Think about it…you wouldn’t put cheap gas into your sports car would you? Treat your body like a Porsche, not a Gremlin by giving it high performance fuel.

Get Out of Your Food Rut

You burn out on food by eating the same things day after day the same way you do by performing the same workouts week after week.  Are you getting sick of chicken and eggs?  Try ostrich, buffalo, tempeh, tofu. Or try a new ethnic food or restaurant. Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and Tai foods can all be a nutritious and tantalizing part of your training table.

Fast Food Does Not Make You Faster

Next time you drive by a McDonalds, keep driving. Fast food is fine once in awhile when nothing else is available, but don’t make a habit out of it. You can probably afford the extra calories, but fast food also contains excess sugar, sodium and saturated fat. Grocery store delis, submarine sandwich shops and bagelries are good alternatives when you’re short on time and money. Stick with lean protein sources, whole grain breads and go easy on the mayo. Supplement your meal with fruit or a side salad.

Get into the Snack Habit

Frequent snacking aids in keeping your blood sugar level which in turn helps sustain your energy level by continually replenishing your muscle glycogen stores. Make a habit of snacking on convenient, healthful foods, such as fresh and dried fruit, yogurt, sports bars, hard boiled eggs, turkey jerky, whole grain crackers or pretzels. Carry them in your workout bag and your car and stash them in your desk at work.

Balance and Moderation

Just like physical training, nutritional training all comes down to balance and moderation. There are no magic foods, instead the optimal training diet incorporates a variety of wholesome choices from the four food groups as well as some well-earned treats (in moderation of course). It’s also important to get a balance of calories from carbohydrate (50-55%), protein (20-30%) and fat (20-25%).

More Food For Thought

The following are some additional tips for cleaning and spicing up your diet:

1. Check out  a new grocery store

Gourmet health food stores are popping up everywhere featuring exotic produce and healthy convenience foods. You’ll also find the latest in sports nutrition supplements as well as nutritious hard-to-find items such as soy yogurt or wheat-free fig bars.

2.  Explore a farmer’s market

For the freshest local produce head to your local farmer’s market. You can’t beat the freshness of locally grown, seasonal  organic produce and often it’s sold at bargain prices.

4.  Clean out your fridge

I realize this might be a scary endeavor, but it’s time to clean out the old before bringing in the new. Ditch leftovers and make room for the healthy foods you’re going to buy.

5.  Incorporate new recipes

Make one night a week recipe night and try a new recipe from a cookbook or food magazine.

6.  Take a healthy cooking course or watch one on TV

Learning to cook healthful meals doesn’t even require leaving the house. Turn on the food channel and set your kitchen in motion.

7.  Have dinner for breakfast (and breakfast for dinner)

Don’t think of breakfast foods as strictly for breakfast. Particularly if you work out in the late afternoon or evening, you may want to make lunch your most substantial meal and eat a lighter breakfast food, such as cereal and toast or eggs, in the evening. Conversely, if you do most of your heavy training in the morning, you may want to substitute your morning cereal with traditional stick-to-your ribs dinner fare.  

Be Well,





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