Do you want to know what the nutritional needs of athletes are? If so, this blog will tell you all about it.
Life is busy and it can be difficult to find time for a balanced diet. We live in a culture of ready meals that don’t always contain the essential nutrients our bodies need. Combine that with controversial and confusing sports nutrition, and figuring out what and when to eat can be a real challenge.
Today, our Registered Dietitian, Michelle, highlights some key nutrients that should be prioritized in your diet if you’re doing regular activity, and where to get them.
Just as a car needs fuel, oil, water and proper maintenance, your body needs essential nutrients from food to function optimally. Not meeting your nutritional needs can leave you feeling weak, tired, and slow to recover from a workout or event.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at six essential nutrients athletes need and where to get them.
Carbohydrates – sports fuel
Why You Need Carbs:
Carbohydrates have a bad reputation because many people associate a high-carb diet with weight gain. The more active you are, the more carbohydrates you should eat (just like the car you drive needs regular fuel). Active people who restrict their carbohydrate intake may lack the energy to perform at their best and may not recover quickly enough for the next session.
Where to find them:
There are two main types of carbohydrates. Immediate release and delayed release. Both are beneficial for an athletic performance diet, but timing is key.
If you participate in activities that last longer than 1 hour, focus on slow-release carbohydrates 1-2 hours before and during exercise and fast-release carbohydrates throughout the day.
During the day, one-third of your main meals should contain slow-release carbohydrates. Oatmeal, vitabaks, brown rice pasta, brown rice, wholemeal bread or cauliflower, sweet potatoes or baby potatoes, couscous or quinoa.
The white version also gives you the energy you need, but the whole grain version offers more health benefits.
A few hours before training, it is a good idea to replenish your energy by eating a carbohydrate breakfast. Toast, bananas, fruit, granola, honey, dried fruit and nuts.
After your workout, you can replace your stored energy (glycogen) with carbohydrate-rich snacks and meals. This means you’re ready for your next workout.
Protein – promotes muscle recovery and growth
Why You Need Protein:
The supplement industry is convinced that we are deficient in protein, which is very rare in Western countries, then you don’t have to take supplements. Proteins play an important role in the repair and regeneration of muscles and cells. That’s why it’s important to prioritize protein in your diet when you’re active.
Where to find protein:
For example, aim for a third of your meals to be protein-based. Eggs, chicken, turkey, red meat, fish, tofu, vegetables (greens, chicken, peas, lentils), cheese, yogurt, etc.
It can help to add protein to your breakfast a few hours before training, for example cheese, nuts, yogurt or eggs.
After your workout, protein-rich snacks and meals can help you recover.
Don’t worry if you can’t eat right after exercise. What you do during the day is more important than what you do in the hour after training.
Vitamins and minerals – keep your health at its best
That is why we need vitamins and minerals.
Just as your car needs oil to run, your body needs vitamins and minerals to function optimally. Your body can’t make them, so a balanced diet is essential to make sure your body gets what it needs. A deficiency can lead to fatigue and exhaustion. The nutrients that are important for athletes are iron, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin D. A simple blood test from your doctor can tell if you are deficient in any of these important nutrients.
In general, if you eat as much as you want and don’t limit the amount of food you eat.
How to get enough vitamins and minerals:
Try to make 1/3 of your meals fruits or vegetables to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs. Soups, salads, roasted vegetables, smoothies, raw fruits and vegetables to reach the recommended serving size. Try to eat rainbows and eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
Aim for 3-5 servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese, depending on your age (children, teens, and young adults need more as their bones develop).
Good sources of iron include red meat, chicken, turkey, eggs and beans, so adding a good protein to your main meal can help you meet your quota.
Fat – Increase healthy fat and decrease unhealthy fat.
Why do you need healthy fats?
Healthy fats are key to providing your body with fat-soluble vitamins, energy, and essential fatty acids. It’s very important for your mental health, but it’s also very important for your physical health.
Here’s how to eat more healthy fats.
When you’re tempted to “eat” on the go, try to limit your intake of processed foods that aren’t good for exercise or health, such as pizza, doughnuts, cakes, and cookies.
Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring) and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and avocados are good in small amounts. Try a small handful of nuts with fruit or yogurt, add seeds to your oatmeal or daily smoothie, or add half an avocado to a salad.
However, portion control is important here because fats are energy dense and can lead to weight gain if consumed.
Water – Hydrate
Water is often overlooked when it comes to essential nutrients for athletes.
Drink a lot of water.
A good way to know if you are drinking enough water is to check the color of your urine. Yellow and bright yellow is a sign that you should drink more water.
You may feel tired or have a headache. Usually, when you find light-colored urine, this is the best way to tell if your body needs water.
Remember that drinking before, during and after exercise is beneficial.
It’s a good idea to eat light snacks regularly throughout the day 1-2 hours before and after your workout. This is to prepare the body for surgery and recovery. But don’t worry if you skip a meal. Above all, you focus 80% of your time on making healthy decisions that will help you improve your performance.
Some food ideas.
Oats with yogurt, nuts and berries
Weetabix with milk and banana
Chicken sandwich with avocado and salad
Sweet potatoes with salmon and roasted vegetables
Chicken curry with rice and vegetables
Spaghetti bolognese with pasta and vegetables
Some ideas for breakfast.
Pita bread with cottage cheese and honey
Bagel with crushed fruit and natural peanut butter
Milk chocolate and nuts
Smoothies made with frozen milk and fruit
We’re all different, so don’t be afraid to experiment a little to find what works best for you.