Whether it’s for long-term training or a light week in preparation for a big game, good nutrition is key for optimal athletic performance. Eating an overall balanced diet with whole foods that are nutrient-dense, limiting processed foods, and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is key to getting essential nutrients and adequate fuel.
There are hundreds of guides, cookbooks, spreadsheets, and more floating around the internet on healthy eating for maximum athletic performance. All of them basically give the same information:
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, aim for 400-500 calories to sustain you until lunchtime.
- Lunch should include at least three to four food groups, consisting of protein, fruit/vegetable, dairy and grains.
- Sports bars are a convenient snack for quick carbohydrates to enhance a mid-afternoon practice.
But, what kinds of food should athletes be eating during sports training? What are some on-the go options or something that will help refuel and replenish muscle energy after an intense workout? Here’s our quick guide to the best food for athletes to maximize their performance at the gym or on the field.
Nuts, Berries, and Cherries
Nuts are high in protein and healthy fats, making them a mainstay in athletes’ diets. Eaten with carbs, they help level out your blood sugar and sustain the carbs over a longer period of time, rather than burning them off right away. They’re also easier to digest and rich in fiber and antioxidants like vitamin E. The anti-inflammatory nutrients found in nuts makes them great for bone health, which is needed by every athlete. They also lower the bad cholesterol, which is good for heart health.
Blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are also rich in antioxidants to help replenish muscles after physical activity. Darker berries contain phytochemicals and other protective elements that prevent oxidative stress that occurs in the body during strenuous activities. Another antioxidant-filled fruit, cherries, aid in preventing muscle pain after running. It reduces inflammation, which is what causes such striking pain and eases soreness.
Oils and Milks
The monounsaturated fats found in olive oil have anti-inflammatory properties, while flaxseed oil contains omega-3s, which is also anti-inflammatory. As an added bonus, it also contains fiber and protein. Coconut oil is filled with medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can help with your endurance during a grueling workout. The MCTs in coconut oil can also help with metabolism and energy from fat.
Another liquid to invest your time and money in is milk, even chocolate milk. Milk is loaded with carbs and protein, which makes it a great post-workout drink for muscle recovery. The caffeine found in chocolate dilates the blood vessels, helping them to relax after a workout. Interestingly enough, when carbs and protein are consumed together, muscle tissues repair themselves more quickly than they do when consumed separately.
Athletes are always on the go, especially running to the gym and field. It’s important to choose energy-packed foods such as whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese, tortilla wraps with veggies and lean meat, hard-boiled eggs, vegetable or bean soups, small boxes of non-sugary cereal, fresh fruit, mini-whole wheat bagels with peanut butter, pita bread with hummus or pasta with grilled chicken. Pair any of these options with a fruit or vegetable and milk and you’ve got a great meal!
Peak Performance at Total Fitness
Nutrition is key to peak performance for all athletes. Foods high in protein, fiber, and vitamins will fuel your body for all high-intensity activity. Eating healthy and right for is the easiest way to stay ahead of the competition. For more information on athletic performance training packages and sessions at Total Fitness, contact us online.