A nutrition plan that has some thought put into can bring an athlete to new heights. Many people can’t see how eating the right foods can do anything for them. This is because there are plenty of athletes out there who eat whatever they feel like eating. They happen to be great athletes. What they do not know is that they could be even better. The fact is I could sit here and use all this science and terminology on eating better. I don’t think anyone cares. The point needs to be understood that eating better is a must, and point out ways in which that can be accomplished.
Athletes could have faster recovery times which would mean they could train more thus becoming better. Or what about the fact that food provides energy. Some foods provide more energy than others while playing sports only burns an extreme amount of energy. For many, this energy is never replaced, or it is replaced with energy that is doing much for them.
It stops now eating healthy does not have to be a full-time job. Once there is an understanding of why eating properly gives huge boosts in performance, there will be plenty of athletes thinking twice about the things they put in their mouth.
As an athlete, you spend hours everyday training. This could include running, jumping, cutting, lifting and so on. All these things require energy that is being constantly burned. When you put this with the fact that you burn calories even when doing nothing you come to one solution. That Food needs to be eaten to make up for all these calories that are being used. Training and nutrition need to become one. As soon as training is complete. Your mind needs to immediately switch to how you can get the calories you just lost back to you as quickly as possible.
Do not make a mistake and use any food, bars, shakes, or gels to replace training. Training should be as important.
For some reason, athletes tend to throw out common sense when it comes to nutrition. More than not athletes know when they are eating something that is probably not that healthy in general. At the same time what works for one person may not work for another. To be a serious athlete you cannot always eat for taste. Sometimes taste must be sacrificed for the better of eating more food than you can handle or eat something that your diet is lacking.
Basic Building Blocks to Improved eating
- Analyze a simple food group pyramid and see where you are coming up short the most and make an effort to change that
- Always aim for a protein and a carbohydrate in each meal
- Have moderation in eating junk food
- Understand eating healthy is the big picture, no one day or one meal
- Think of drinking water as the base of starting to eat right
- Avoid processed food as much as possible
- Alcohol should be avoided because it messes up hydration and sleeps, in reality, the question of should I drink or not should be answered with the question how bad do you want to good at your sport?
Those Darn Processed Foods
The issue with processed foods is they are usually the most accessible. Meaning when you are hungry and are looking for something to scarf down quickly. They only take a short time to prepare. The problem with them is processed foods are usually stripped down. So even the ones that seem healthy are not as healthy as they could be. If you eat enriched foods as much as possible, you will be getting more bang for your buck as an athlete. When your diet improves its nutrient-rich content, it helps regulate key bodily functions like the releasing of insulin and fat metabolism.
Only you know your goals
You can’t be told everything you diet should constitute because every athlete has different goals as an athlete. This must be first determined by a coach, a parent or a trainer. It is impossible to find a diet that works for everyone, but you can be assisted with some ideas. Knowing goals is a huge step because when you think about what you are trying to accomplish it makes sense why eating needs to be a certain way.
Things an athlete should look at when determining what works for them
- Energy levels- Do you feel tired of practice or games, or just feel like your energy levels could be higher?
- Look for carbohydrates that provide the most energy
- Consider more foods to eat before practice that provide energy bursts
- Strength levels- Are you content with strength levels, or are you trying to increase strength
- Consider adding more protein to your diet to assist in muscle development
- Sport- Some sports require pettiness like gymnastics while others encourage size like football where do you stand
- Either be eating just enough calories to maintain what you have
- Eating more calories than burned to gain weight
- Body Composition- do you have a lot of fat on your body or not enough?
- Meaning Less or more fat needs to be consumed
I’ll give you a good tip if you truly want to eat better as an athlete take part in the grocery shopping process. Not everyone understands the choices of foods that are even out there because they do not grocery shop. I never did any grocery shopping until I got to college. Once I started, I began to have a true understanding of eating properly. At that time I was still way ahead of most kids my age as I have very nutritional savvy parents.
Grocery shopping is where everything starts. If you buy all processed foods than you will eat all processed foods. I’ll never forget when I was still in elementary school my mom hated that I and my brother ate so many hot dogs. So what did she do? She stopped buying them when she went grocery shopping. She had that control because she went grocery shopping week in week out. There are plenty of things people eat that they know they should not eat. The best way to eliminate them is to stop buying them and replace them with something better for you.
Learn to Make Chicken
This might sound stupid but if you can’t cook and refuse to learn how at least figure out how to season and make some chicken breast. The power of eating better rests in chickens hands; a chicken breast never fails you. Carbohydrates are never hard to find or make they consist of things like bread, or things that you need to boil water to make pasta and rice. The protein part of a meal can be tricky to find.
Chicken can be a key building block for any athlete because it can go with anything. It has little fat content, and it can sit in the fridge all week just waiting to get warmed up and eaten. I love to have chicken breast with some carrots, rice, beans, and a glass of milk. The meal is healthy; it contains carbohydrates, protein in the chicken, milk, and beans. This is not a meal that can be duplicated by all because I like high protein diets to support the building of muscle. Take note of the fact that I do not enjoy eating beans at all, but I eat them because they are a great source of protein and fiber. Always know you have a piece of chicken breast sitting in the fridge ready to go, and your diet will improve.
Eating is for Energy
Food + Oxygen= Carbon Dioxide, Water, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)
To some this up if you put food in your mouth and your breath in you will create energy. Energy can be used for some reasons, but it should be noted that ATP is very important in all muscular contractions. The key thing an athlete wants to figure out is how to get the most out this energy they are creating. Energy not used up is stored as either muscle or fat, the latter not being what an athlete wants more of. Muscle is functional tissue for an athlete; it can help you become better as an athlete it is that simple. As fat is not functional, it is just there and has no benefits.
When you are not providing your body with what it needs to sustain itself and be healthy, your body will not just shut down its needs. It will do whatever needs to be done to get its nutrition. This means your body eats itself. Now, this would be an amazing thing if it ate fat first because then we probably would all is skinny. It does not it goes for that muscle you spent so much time trying to get in the first place. Muscle has a huge responsibility to the body even in a person who eats healthy because muscles have a lot of stored up nitrogen which is useful for things like cell division.
All carbohydrates break down into glucose which is the main sugar in our blood, which we use for the most basic body fuel. This does not mean that all carbohydrates are the same. If an athlete fuels with the right carbohydrates it on how energetic they feel for practice or competition. If the carbohydrate intake is too low, that means the body will rely on protein and fat for its energy, and this does not create an efficient athlete. Protein already has many roles in the body, and to make it simple if it has to cover for carbohydrates butt, then muscle mass will be lost. Never mind the fact that you need proteins to focus on fighting disease, forming new tissue, repairing muscle and all that good stuff.
Note: Fat provides nine calories per gram while carbohydrates and protein provide four calories per gram. Fat would seem to be a great energy source, but it slows down your digestion which is not needed or wanted by athletes.
The index is something all athletes should have some understanding of. The index was made for diabetics so they were fully aware of what could not cause huge insulin spikes. This can be helpful for athletes as it shows them which foods raise the blood sugar level. Anytime you eat carbohydrates. While your body is at rest it causes a chain reaction of events within you which increase insulin production. Insulin will lower the blood glucose concentration levels. As an athlete, a high insulin level is bad as it will drive down blood sugar when you need to feel energetic.
Eating To Recover
It is simple; you want the food you eat to allow you to be able to perform the next day. You want to prevent muscle breakdown, feed your muscles so they can grow, and replenish the energy you lose from the activity. Post work out recovery can be the difference in feeling like you are overtraining and getting much better because you can train so hard. Things like muscle soreness, restless sleep, and just waking up every day tired are things you may come to expect if you are not fueling yourself upright.
Take strength training as an example it gives you 2 problems when you are done. You need to rebuild the muscle you broke down, and you also hope it rebuilds it in a stronger or larger manner. Or an endurance athlete who does have some different breakdowns as a power athlete. Endurance athletes tend to have a buildup of carbon dioxide and extreme loss of fluids and electrolytes which can leave an athlete feeling weak.
Maintain that Muscle after a Workout
Every sport to some degree causes an athlete to break down their muscle tissue. The way to make gains as an athlete is to find ways to make the workouts more intense in hopes of making larger athletic gains. At the same time, these larger gains come with a price tag of more muscle break down.
What to do: Ingest a protein and carbohydrate recovery product in a maximum time of 30 minutes after a workout is completed. After 30 minutes the effect of your recovery is reduced as time goes on so the quicker it is digested, the better. Protein and carbohydrates work much better as a team because the protein helps increase the number of carbohydrates stored in the muscles and converted to glycogen. There are plenty of different options to be able to fulfill this need. You can make a shake with protein powder and carbohydrate powder. I say this is the best option because you can mix in all types of things and make it one delicious drink for after your workouts. If you don’t want it in liquid forms, there are plenty of other bars and gels out there you can give a try.
Water has to be the most overlooked nutrient for any human, not just athlete. It is the building block of everything you are trying to do as an athlete. People have no problem understanding the hard facts. Water is what makes up a large percentage of your body. When you sweat you lose water, and even if you do not sweat you still need water. Water is everything. We drink it so little. Water intake can have huge effects on performance, and many athletes do not realize it.
Dehydration and Performance
1% dehydration- Heat regulation process is already altered, performance begins to decline
4% dehydration- Performance drops by whopping 20% at this point all water weight has dropped off
6% dehydration- Weakness, headache and fatigue set in and competing is no longer an option
Things like caffeine and alcohol only further dehydrate the body and should be avoided at all costs by athletes in season.
Studies have shown that water is not enough, but water still is needed to get better as an athlete here is what you can do.
- Water should be consumed every day a good guideline is to check the color of your urine. If you urinate and it is not clear you need to drink more water.
- When you wake up in the morning, you are naturally a bit dehydrated because your body has not taken any fluids in a while. Leave a glass of water in the bathroom and when you wake up to start your day off with a glass of water
- When it comes time for meals stay away from caffeine, or sugar-loaded sodas. Drink fresh juice or water
- Fresh fruit is all loaded with water that can help with dehydration
- After a workout drink a sports drink that has sodium in it to replace the electrolytes you have lost during activity
Take a Good Multi-Vitamin Everyday
The multivitamin is the minimum an athlete needs to be healthy. It is jam-packed with goodies that athletes are not getting in their diets. Let’s face it we live in a world where the nutrients in our food are not the same. The multivitamin is not expensive and can help cover something’s you may be missing in your diet. Multivitamins contain many beneficial nutrients that are lacking in many athletes diets.
- Zinc- Increases muscle strength and endurance
- Magnesium- Increase in oxygen transport to muscle tissue
- Copper-Strengthened connective tissue and tendons
- Iron- Increase in oxygen transport throughout body
When it comes down to it, athletes know how to work hard and beat their body down. All that is only good as an athlete who knows how to build it back up. Eating is something that many athletes seem to see as a difficult task, but it does not have to be. If a conscious effort is made to look into the things you buy the rest of the problems will fall into place. It is hard to give someone a direct plan of how to eat better because everyone likes different things and frankly there are multiple ways to get to Rome.
- Eat the right food
- Eat enough food
- Recover from workouts
- Drink Water