Sports Nutrition: Eating for Peak Performance
Every athlete strives for an edge over the competition. Daily training and recovery require a comprehensive eating plan that matches these physical demands. The keys to peak nutrition performance aimed to complement your training and competition are reviewed below.
Carbohydrate-rich foods including fruits, veggies, whole grain cereals, breads and pastas and low-fat dairy provide the main energy sources vital for training and recovery.
Lean protein provides additional power strength for muscle building and repair. Main protein foods such as lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, low-fat dairy, dairy-fortified fruit smoothies, eggs or trail mixes can meet these daily needs.
Healthy fats also have a key role in adding good calories and managing hunger. These beneficial fats can be obtained through snacks of nuts, nut butters, avocados, soy products and vinegar/oil-based salad dressings.
Tips to Excel with Proper Sports Nutrition
1. Make a plan to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. The goal is to eat at least five servings per day (1 serving = approximately the size of a baseball). Fruits and vegetables are filled with the energy and nutrients necessary for training and recovery. Plus, these antioxidant-rich foods will help you combat illness such as a cold or the flu.
2. Choose whole-grain carbohydrates such as whole-wheat bread or pasta, and fiber-rich cereals as power-packed energy sources. Limit refined grains and sugars such as sugary cereals, white breads and bagels. You’ll benefit more from whole-grain products.
3. Choose lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, peanut butter, nuts or soy products. They have less saturated or "unhealthy" fats to weigh you down.
4. Stay hydrated with a variety of non-caffeinated beverages such as milk, water or 100% juice. A drop in your level of hydration by as little as 2% can negatively impact your sports performance.
5. Avoid over-processed and foods that are "too convenient," because they rarely have the same benefits as eating real food.
Make Healthy Choices
Without adequate calories from the healthiest food sources, you will struggle to achieve your performance goals. Plan a nutritious meal by choosing at least one food from each category.
|Fruit, fresh or dried||Egg or egg white substitute||Avocado|
|100% fruit juice||Greek yogurt||Peanut butter|
|Oatmeal or low-fat granola||Milk or soy milk||Nuts and seeds|
|High-fiber, non-sugary cereal||String cheese||Olive or canola oil
(in cooking or baking)
|Tortilla, corn or whole wheat flour||Lean meat||Flax seed
(add to baking or cooking)
|Whole grain bread or crackers||Poultry||Vinegar and oil salad dressings|
|Broth based soups||Fish|
|Brown or wild rice||Hummus|
Adequate hydration is a key element in sports performance. Most athletes benefit from developing a personal hydration plan. A general rule for training is to consume a minimum of 2 cups of fluid prior to training, 4–6 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes of exercise and an additional 2 cups of fluid after training. Evaluate your hydration needs by tracking your sweat losses. Weigh yourself before and after a workout. For every pound of weight lost, replace with 16 ounces of fluid.
The best hydration choices include water, low-fat milk and 100% juice. Sports beverages are best reserved for competition, when quick hydration and electrolyte replacement are necessary.
Peak performance during competition means eating nutritious food while traveling. Relying on the concession stand for food during competition is an almost certain failure. Players and parents should prepare by packing a variety of food and beverages.
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.
|HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES||NOT-SO-HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES|
|Grilled chicken, turkey or fish||Fried chicken and fish|
|Lean beef or pork||Burgers, sausage, bacon|
|Fruits, vegetables, salads, veggie-based soups||French fries, fried rice, alfredo or cheese sauce|
|Nuts, trail mix, seeds or peanut butter||Chips, cheese curls, pork rinds|
|Egg or egg white substitute||Omelets loaded with cheese, hash browns and sausage|
|Whole-grain breads, rice and pasta||Highly processed white bread, rice and pasta|
|Low-fat dairy products||Whole milk dairy products|