Whether you are an avid bicyclist or runner, or a professional athlete, you need the proper fuel to keep your performance at its peak. The following information on proper nutrition, supplements, diets, vitamins and hydration will help you establish healthy eating habits that satisfy hunger while feeding your needs as an athlete.
Healthy Eating Tips for Athletes
- Eat a balanced diet with 60 percent of your calories from complex carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
- Make 15 to 20 percent of your calories come from protein, such as fish, poultry, lean meats, tofu and beans.
- Minimize fat consumption to 20 to 25 percent of your caloric intake. Your body still needs fat, but make the right choices in your fat consumption.
- Avoid foods high in saturated fat, such as red meat, bacon, sausage, whole milk, butter, ice cream and cheese.
- Cook and top salads with mono-saturated fats such as olive, canola, corn, flaxseed, grapeseed, peanut, safflower or sunflower oils.
- Avoid fried foods.
- Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
Achieving Your Proper Weight
If weight gain is your goal, eat at least three meals a day plus snacks. You’ll need to increase calorie intake if you are underweight.
If weight loss is your goal, you still need to eat regular meals. Fasting slows your metabolism and makes weight loss even harder to achieve. Instead of three large meals a day, eat five or six small meals with modest portion sizes. In order to lose one pound you need to burn 3,500 calories. You can accomplish this by burning more calories through vigorous exercise, eating less or doing a combination of both.
Another method for calculating calories on food labels is to check grams. One gram of protein or carbohydrate equals four calories, while one gram of fat equals nine calories.
While checking food labels, keep an eye out for low-fat products that contain refined sugars, a source of empty calories that can rob the body of minerals. Three reasons not to drink soft drinks such as colas include: refined sugar, carbonation and caffeine. As mentioned above, refined sugar is an empty source of calories; carbonation hinders proper digestion; and caffeine causes dehydration.
Finally, avoid alcohol. It contains seven calories per gram but cannot be used to fuel the body. Instead, it drains you of B-vitamins, which are needed for energy metabolism, and keeps you from absorbing several other vitamins.
We recommend the following healthy snacks:
- Fruit smoothies
- Trail mix
- Fig Newtons
- Granola bars
- Oatmeal-raisin cookies
- Dutch (hard) pretzels
- Beef jerky
- Wheat crackers
- Rice cakes
- Graham crackers
- Carrot and celery sticks
- Sliced cucumber
- Fresh and dried fruit
Supplements and Vitamins