How to Eat Right for Performance
Although a great deal of emphasis is placed on utilizing proper form when exercising, it’s important to eat right for performance, especially amongst athletes. Regardless of the sport, the calories needed by athletes pale in comparison the caloric needs of someone who leads a sedentary lifestyle. Male and female athletes, especially teens, will need to consume a minimum of 3,000 calories in order to meet the physical demands of their respective sports.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the macronutrients needed for today’s top-performing athletes. Additionally, we will explore the process of creating a nutritional meal plan that is not only delicious but also provides enough energy for your training/demanding sporting event.
HOW IMPORTANT IS HYDRATION?
Before we delve into the importance of food energy, let’s take a moment to emphasize the value of remaining properly hydrated. Adequate hydration, either through water or electrolytes, is paramount when it comes to sports performance; if your body is dehydrated, the consequences can be dire. Some of the symptoms associated with dehydration can include
- Dark urine
- Low energy levels
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Hunger pain
It’s important to note that this is not an all-encompassing list of dehydration symptoms; it is, moreover, some of the more common ones. That said, it’s important to recognize these warning signs and replenish your body as soon as possible. Having said that, you’re encouraged to avoid 100 percent fruit juice, sodas, and other beverages that are high in sugar. These sugary drinks can prompt the body to release cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones can increase the body’s heart rate and also raise blood sugar, none of which are conducive to optimal performance.
EATING RIGHT FOR PERFORMANCE
Now that we have detailed the importance of being properly hydrated, let’s now focus our attention on fueling the body with nutrient-rich, high energy foods. The best way to determine your specific macronutrient ratios for your body, is to use metabolic typing. Metabolic typing looks at the best macronutrient ratios that allows you to function at your best. It is always best to use a knowledgeable practitioner when testing and implementing metabolic typing.
While keeping your eye on game day, you will want to pay close attention to your nutrition. The right mix of macronutrients is critical; your meals should include carbohydrates like oatmeal, fresh fruits, and vegetable, for example.
Also, consider adding quality protein sources, such as whole eggs, pea protein, and Greek yogurt. One of the biggest misconceptions regarding fats is that all fats are bad, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Healthy fats, also known as monounsaturated fats, are an integral part of a well-balanced diet. These fats, which are found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts, can help with weight loss and inflammation. Additionally, they can lower your chances of developing heart disease.
FOOD CHOICES WHEN YOU’RE AWAY FROM HOME
For many us, it’s easy to sabotage our diets while we are away from home, especially with a plethora of fast food restaurants on every corner. But with the right planning, you can remain on track, stay satiated, and satisfy your cravings. The best way to accomplish this goal, whether for game day or otherwise, is to pack a nutritious lunch. So, what does a nutritious lunch look like, exactly? Well, needless to say, the options are plentiful; here are a few great tasting, nutrient-rich foods to get you started:
- Lean beef
- Grilled chicken
- Whole grain bread (gluten free or Ezekiel)
- Salads and vegetables
- Turkey or fish
The best thing about this list of healthy foods is that they can be used as ingredients for a delicious wrap and, more importantly, they are portable. And unlike fast food, they’re not laden with unhealthy fats, sugar, or sodium. If you prefer a smaller snack to hold you over until your next big meal, trail mix, sunflower seeds, and almonds are great on-the-go snack options.
THE BENEFIT OF SMALLER PORTIONS
If you have trained for any length of time or have played pro level sports, you know that big meals can weigh you down and make you feel sluggish. Whether you’re involved in a tournament, meet, or just looking to train hard, smaller meals throughout the day is enough to keep you satiated without compromising your performance. This also helps to balance blood sugar which can lead to increased performance.
Consider limiting fibrous carbohydrates like whole-grain bread and pasta, especially before an event. These carbohydrates are notorious for triggering gastrointestinal problems.
The key to great sports nutrition is not too different than the nutritional need of non-athletes; at the end of the day, you should aim to consume as many whole food options as possible while keeping processed foods to a minimum, especially since they contain a tremendous amount of sodium. The goal is to not only resolve hunger pain but also to give your body the fuel that it needs to get you through the rigors of training, competing and, if all goes well, celebrating a win.
Rich Jacobs is a Board Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner who specializes in resolving gut, insomnia, low libido, fatigue and fat issues. He uses a holistic approach and functional lab work to identify root causes such as hormone imbalances or gut pathogens that could be impacting your health.