Good nutrition is the foundation for our health and quality of life. What you eat affects how you feel and translates directly to how much energy you have to perform optimally. As an athlete, you need to be consuming the right amount of quality calories to power your body for hard training. If you eat junk then don’t expect good things to come out as a result. You also need to be eating the right amount and quality of protein after an intense training session to ensure that the body can repair the muscle damage caused and allow the body to adapt and become stronger. This is determined by a number of factors such as your age and gender, your sport, and how hard your train. The timing of when you are eating also affects your performance. Restricting fuel just before or after training can lead to poor performance and recovery whereas fueling before, during, and after training is a good practice followed by successful athletes.
Eat Breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Athletes who skip breakfast train less effectively, suffer fatigue more frequently, and may not perform to their potential. Over time this can have a negative effect on metabolism and performance. A wholesome, carbohydrate-rich breakfast fuels muscles for training and competition but also prevents low blood sugar and the urge to overeat of high sugar and fat foods that lack essential vitamins and minerals.
ANY breakfast is better than no breakfast at all. Some of the best choices are cold or hot cereals, pancakes, waffles, French toast, eggs, English muffins, bagels, toast, nutrition bars, banana bread, fruit, yogurt, or even non-traditional items such as leftover pizza.
Before Competition or Training Sessions:
- Eat complex carbohydrates (fruits, whole grain pasta/bread) NOT simple sugars (candy, soda) to maintain energy levels and a slow release of energy (blood sugar).
- Practice timing. Not all athletes can tolerate solids before training or racing. Practice race day nutrition plan/choices daily so ensure these options work come race day.
- Consume 70-100 grams of carbohydrates and 20-25 grams protein 4 hrs prior and 40-50 grams of carbohydrates 1-2 hrs prior to ensure adequate energy levels for competition.
- DRINK at least 12-24 oz (1 water bottle) of water or electrolyte replacement drink 1 hour before competition or training.
During Competition or Training Sessions:
- Choose liquid calories over solid calories for training and competition. Generally, athletes can tolerate liquids or gels during activity better than solid foods.
- Consume 20-24 oz of fluids every 60 minutes. Spreading out your intake by consuming 5-8 oz of fluids every 20 minutes will help with absorption rates.
- Electrolyte replacement drinks provide necessary electrolytes, carbohydrates, calories, and fluids that are lost during sweating and training/racing.
- Consume 25-35 grams of a carbohydrate/electrolyte drink or gel solution with 80-120 calories every 30-40 minutes during training or racing. A 100 pound athlete should be at the lower end of the spectrum 25g/80 calories and 200 pound athlete should aim to be closer to 35g/120 calories.
Post-Competition or Training:
- Consume a meal with a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate: protein (chocolate milk or soy milk, fruit & yogurt, Nutrition Bars) to improve recovery time by 50%.
- Eat within 1 hour post-workout or race. This will allow for glycogen stores to be replenished most effectively.
Sample Daily Fueling Plan – training 5-8 hours/week
Breakfast Options: Drink- 8-12 oz of water or fruit/veggie juice
- Oatmeal w fruit (blueberries, strawberries, banana)
- 2 eggs any style (feel free to add cheese or veggies to omelets etc), 2 pieces of toast w butter or jelly, 8-12 oz of fruit or veggie juice or piece of fruit
- Cereal w *milk, the whole piece of fruit
- ½ to full bagel w butter, peanut butter, jelly or cream cheese, yogurt (plain or w fruit) or whole piece of fruit
- French toast or pancakes with 1 egg, yogurt (plain or w fruit), or whole piece of fruit
Pre-Training Breakfast Options:
- ½ to full bagel or 1-2 pieces of toast w butter, peanut butter, jelly, or cream cheese AND start drinking 60-90 minutes prior to workout: Electrolyte mix- 20-24 oz. Be sure to finish 24 oz of electrolyte drink BEFORE practice starts
Lunch Options: 10-12 oz of water or fruit/veggie juice
- Sandwich- turkey, tuna, pb&j, side item- fruit or veggie
- Salad w protein (grilled chicken, tuna, or steak), a slice of bread/toast
Pre-Training Lunch Options: 10-12 oz of water
- Sandwich- turkey, tuna, pb&j
- Bagel or sandwich with peanut butter and banana
Dinner Options: 10-12 oz of water or fruit/veggie juice
- choice of fish (salmon, halibut, snapper), turnip/collard greens or spinach, sweet potatoes (sauteed, mashed, baked), chia seed drink or soy milk
- choice of red meat prepared baked, grilled or broiled, spinach or collard greens, beans (white, pinto, navy), and red/purple/yellow potatoes.
- choice of white meat prepared baked, grilled, broiled- (chicken/turkey/pork), brown rice or other grain, spinach, kale, or collard greens.
- veggie or chicken stir fry (red/green/yellow peppers, onion, broccoli, carrots, asparagus), brown rice
Evening Snack– 2-3 nights per week- 1-1.5 hour prior to bedtime- 20-24 oz of *milk mixed with Protein shake
Before Each Training session – start drinking 60-90 minutes prior to workout: Electrolyte Drink mix- 20-24 oz
After Each Training session: Protein shake w 20-24 oz of *milk OR 20-24 oz of *milk
*all milk can be cow milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk or other milk substitutes