5 Diet & Nutritional Tips for Athletes

A high intensity workout session is certain to require a lot of endurance. A well-planned and nutritious diet is critical to performing to a high standard and recovering quickly after.

Female Runner

Below are five tips to help provide the proper diet and nutrition for athletes:

Get Enough Protein

Protein is a great food type to help maintain the muscles, but isn’t the most practical choice to fuel the body with energy.

  • Know the daily protein intake. A standard rule is 1.2-1.4 grams of protein for each kg of body weight. For instance, a 150 pound adult will need about 86 grams of protein. A person involved in high-intensity workouts might need to increase the protein intake to 1.6 grams. This means a 200 pound sports person needs 152 grams of protein per day.
  • Go with real foods. A high concentration of protein in supplement form is certain to strain the kidneys. Favor real food instead and eat high-protein foods like milk, eggs, beans, nuts, poultry, fish, and lean meats.
  • Drink milk. A full glass of milk is a great choice to help recovery after a workout. Milk gives a perfect balance of carbohydrates and protein. Also, milk has a combination of both whey and casein protein. Whey protein is said to absorb faster and therefore speed up the recovery process. Casein is slowly digested and therefore able to offer the long term recovery of the muscles. A further benefit of milk is the calcium content, which is needed to help strengthen the bones.

Lighten up on fat

A marathon runner or similar long event participant relies on fat as a source of energy when the carbs start to run low. The preferred fats for an athlete are the unsaturated fats, which is sourced from fatty fish (tune, salmon, etc.), vegetable oils, olives, avocados, and nuts. Minimize the intake of fatty foods in the lead up and day of the event to avoid upsetting the stomach.

Load Up On Carbs

Carbohydrates are an essential source of fuel for the athlete. Carbs are transformed into glucose (sugar substance) and is kept stored in the muscles as glycogen. When exercising, this glycogen is channeled into energy. The body is able to hold enough glycogen in the muscles for fast-paced exercise that lasts up to 90 minutes. Use these strategies to complete a longer workout:

  • Load up with carbohydrates for 2 or 3 days before the sporting event to help increase the stores of glycogen.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that gets nearly 65-70% of its calories from fruit, vegetables, pasta, cereals, and breads, which is certain to help obtain the desired carbohydrate storage.
  • Eat a last healthy meal 2 or 3 hours before competing to ensure the stomach is given time to empty.
  • Avoid starchy or sugary foods a good 25-30 minutes before exercising as this can increase the rate of dehydration.
  • Reload lost water, minerals, and carbs during a high-intensity exercise program. Aim to drink fluid and eat a snack every 15-20 minutes. Fuel working muscles with refined carbohydrates because they are fast to pass into the blood stream. Convenient options include gels, sports drinks, and sports bars – although fruits (whole or juiced) are practical choices.
  • Replenish lost carbohydrates are a difficult workout, too. Use less refined carbohydrates after exercise when quick energy isn’t needed. Great choices include carrot sticks or a whole-grain bagel, which offers a combined array of nutrients and carbohydrates.

Replace depleted electrolytes

Sweating can lead to the loss of both electrolytes and fluids. Lost electrolytes need to be replaced because they help with transmitting nerve messages throughout the body. Sports drinks offer a simple opportunity to replenish them. A simple technique to replenish both fluids and electrolytes is to dilute a sports drink 50/50 with water.

Regular fluid intake

Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration after a session of intense exercise, which is more of an issue in hot weather. Also, being dehydrated will have a negative impact and limit the ability to perform to a high level.

Any athlete participating in high-intensity sports should take in fluids often and early. Avoid waiting until you have a feeling of thirst. Most people are already seriously dehydrated by the time the parched feeling is noticed. A simple way to monitor hydration is to monitor the color of the urine. Dark or bright yellow urine is an indication of not getting enough fluid, while a pale yellow color is what you would prefer to see.

During a bout of intense exercise, the body will naturally lose fluid at a faster rate. Aim to get a regular intake of fluid before and during a physical activity.

A long-distance cyclist, marathon runner, or similar endurance athlete should get a fluid intake of about 8-12 ounces every 10-15 minutes of competing. Chilled fluids are the easiest to absorb and also help to cool the body down.

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