Impactful Nutritional Tips for Athletes
by Taylor Smith, CHOP5 Wellness Blogger
Raise your hand if you are an athlete—And no, you do not have to be actively playing a sport to be considered an athlete. If you exercise, no matter how that looks or what age you are, you are an athlete. I am on the Women’s Division 1 Lacrosse team at the University of Colorado Boulder, so I definitely am an athlete, but even after I graduate, I will still be an athlete. From my own personal experience with exercise, combined with tips from experts, you could say I know a thing or two about the most effective nutritional tips for athletes to feel their best, see results and perform optimally.
How to Properly Fuel Your Body
It is critical to fuel yourself before and after a workout or training session. Just as you would fill a car with gas when the fuel tank is low or charge your phone when the battery is low, you need to eat and drink properly to keep you going. But you should not let your energy levels get low to signal you to fuel. Instead, it should be part of your daily routine. To perform at your peak, you should stage the foods you eat. That means focusing on quality carbs, which your body can convert into glucose for immediate energy before exercise. After exercise, you need to replenish your glycogen stores to aid in recovery and be ready for your next workout.
So, let’s talk about how you should properly fuel your body before and after exercise to ensure positive results!
- Hydrate with water (drinks with electrolytes help a lot!) throughout the day.
- Eat a substantial meal 2-4 hours before you exercise, then a small snack about 45 minutes before—examples include:
- Chicken, broccoli, sweet potatoes
- CHOP5 grain bowls!
- Baked potato
- Energy bar
- Cereal with milk
- Toast with peanut butter, lean meat, or cheese
- Pasta with tomato sauce
- Eating “quick carbs” before your workout is good because they’re easily broken down
- Eat a light snack (something that won’t sit heavy in your stomach) about 30-60 minutes before exercise
- Fruit is a great option as they’re packed with easy-to-digest, energizing carbohydrates (apples, bananas, peaches, grapes, oranges)!
- Sports drink
- Dried fruit
- Greek yogurt
- Energy gels
- Fruit smoothie
- Apple sauce
- Avoiding saturated fats and a lot of healthy protein because these types of fuels digest slower in your stomach and take away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles.
- Go for easily digested carbohydrates so you don’t feel sluggish!
- Continue to drink fluids after exercise
- Eat carbohydrates in the 20-60 minutes after your workout because you burn a lot during exercise and your muscles can store carbohydrates and protein as energy and help in recovery
- Consume protein to help repair and grow your muscles
Foods that aid in muscle recovery/repair include:
- Dairy products (contain the amino acid leucine, which helps the body to synthesize muscle protein)
- CHOP5 protein-packed salads/wraps!
- Sweet potatoes
- Nuts and seeds
- Cottage cheese
Foods to AVOID AFTER for better muscle recovery include:
- Salty processed food
- Packaged energy or protein bars—many snack bars are also full of artificial sweeteners and can be low in fiber and the essential vitamins and minerals you need to repair post-workout
- Sweetened beverages—they have lots of added sugar and artificial sweeteners—try coconut water instead!
Please remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach as everyone’s bodies are different and everyone does different workouts at various lengths and intensity levels. Some people’s digestive systems are more sensitive, while others are not. So, remember that these are general guidelines, and we suggest that you tailor them to fit your needs and goals! All in all, what you put into your body has a huge impact on whether you achieve your goals as an athlete, whether it entails being in top shape or performing at a high level. If you just workout and are not mindful of how you fuel your body, you will not see results, as the two go hand in hand.