While good nutrition is important for everyone, it’s even more important for the fitness-minded individual.
Whether you’re prepping for a fitness competition, training for a marathon, or working your butt off at the gym, proper nutrition is crucial to perform at your peak and recover quickly.
The right foods can help you get stronger, faster, and fitter than ever before no matter what you’re trying to master.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
One of the biggest mistakes an athlete can make is rushing out the door without fueling up with a good breakfast. After a long nights rest, your blood sugar levels are low which means you need to eat something as soon as you wake up. Try scrambled eggs with whole grain toast, a protein shake, or oats with fruit and nuts.
While we all know that drinking water during a workout is crucial, beginning your workout properly hydrated is even more important. If you start a workout already mildly dehydrated, you won’t achieve the results you are looking for. Aim to consume approximately 1 ounce of H2O per pound of body weight each day.
Pump Up Your Iron
As your weights and workouts increase, so should your iron. An iron deficiency means slowness, fatigue, and running the risk of injury in any activity. Add iron-rich foods such as red meat, spinach, and oatmeal into your daily meals.
Ditch The Diet
A healthy individual requires anywhere from 1,200 to 1,800 calories per day (depending on height, weight, BMI, etc…) but athletes require much more. An athletes’ caloric intake can be anywhere from 2200 to 3000 calories per day. If you are limiting your calories in the hopes of becoming lean you are forcing your body to store carbohydrates, breakdown muscle, and use protein as a fuel source. Instead, focus on increasing your proteins (turkey, lean beef, fish, quinoa), dark leafy vegetables, starchy vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and healthy fats.
Get Friendly With Carbs
Carbohydrates are not the enemy. In fact, they are an athlete’s best friend. Carb-loading before an intense workout or big race is actually an outdated nutrition tip. When you consume too many carbs in one sitting your body is unable to utilize it all and ends up storing away excess carbs as fat. Instead, focus on getting 4-6 servings of complex carbs per day such as whole grains, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and/or buckwheat.
Power Up With Protein
Protein is essential for maintaining lean muscle tissue. The average person needs approximately .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight a day. A strength athlete may need up to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Incorporate high-quality proteins such as whey powder, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and milk into your diet.
While the “anabolic window” might be up for debate, you should still aim to refuel your body within 30-40 minutes after an intense workout. Try something with carbs and protein like a whey protein shake, chocolate milk, sweet potatoes, eggs, or toast with peanut butter. Refueling with protein and carbs will help reduce muscle soreness and aid in muscle recovery.