The human body functions much like a machine, although more complicated. It needs good, clean food to perform at its peak level. A healthy diet is particularly important for athletes who need to maximize the fuel efficiency of their meals, converting food into performance power. The following are four essential diet tips which will help the athlete to not only feel better, think quicker and be stronger, but to also achieve the most efficient energy producing and burning methods that allow for maximum performance.
Get Enough Protein
Protein is a critical substance for those who are taxing their muscles on a regular basis through practice, strength training, cardio exercise, and actual competition. It is the key element for repairing damaged tissue and growing new tissue. Therefore, an athlete needs to ensure they are consuming a sufficient amount of protein to complete these important functions.
Get Quick Energy through Low Fat Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates aren’t always a bad thing. Carbs are what the body uses for fast fuel, which is an important part of athletic performance. Two-thirds of an athletic diet should consist of foods that are high in carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, rice, potatoes, and pasta. Complex carbohydrates are the best as they are low in sugar, yet still provide quick energy. Foods that are made from whole grains will provide large amounts of quick energy while keeping your blood sugar levels from rising. Also, whole grains provide more essential vitamins as well as healthy dietary fiber.
Eat for Recovery, Not for Weight Gain
Anyone who has completed an intense workout is familiar with the equally intense hunger pangs afterwards. Unfortunately, many athletes eat too much after a workout with a great deal of that food going to weight gain.
However, you should eat with the goal of recovering from your workout and staying lean, which enables you to perform better. Eating in such a way also increases your recovery time so that you can give more during your next exercise session and not have to waste precious time and energy fighting off accumulated weight.
It is best to eat a light snack shortly after your workout that contains a high amount of carbohydrates and protein as well as sufficient fluids. Enjoy snacks such as a banana, a half cup of almonds, a bowl of cereal, a celery stick with peanut butter, or a cup of yogurt with fruit added, accompanied by a glass of low fat chocolate milk or sports drink.
Stay Properly Hydrated
Many athletes don’t adequately replenish the amount of liquid lost during high intensity workouts or competitions. Dehydration can thwart your performance and cause debilitating cramps as well as severely tax your heart. You should drink around 20 oz of healthy liquids within 3 hours of an intense exercise routine or competition and then replenish fluids approximately every 15 minutes during the game, practice, or other activity.
A simple way to gauge your inner fluid level is to examine your urine. If it is deep yellow then you need to consume more liquid until your urine becomes pale yellow to clear. You can also weigh yourself before the workout and then replace every pound lost when weighed afterwards with 16 oz of fluid.