If you have been doing research on what to eat in order to improve your athletic performance I am sure you are pretty frustrated with all the different information out there and want to know what information to trust. I have summarized the basic guidelines from the position paper written by the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Dietetic Association and the Dietitians of Canada. However, even though these guidelines are sound and effective, your individual needs must be emphasized.
Sufficient in fluids to maintain hydration
- Low in fat and fiber to minimize any GI problems
High in carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose and maximize glycogen stores (approximately 200-300 grams for meals consumed 3-4 hours before exercise).
- Moderate in protein
- Composed of familiar foods
Primary goal is to replace fluid losses (drink every 15-20 minutes 6-12 oz)
Provide carbohydrates (approximately 30-60 grams every hour in events greater than 90 minutes) to maintain blood glucose levels.
In events lasting less than one hour, a sports drink that provide 6-8% carbohydrates is sufficient
Eat within 30-45 minutes
- Restore fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat (Drink 16-24 oz of fluid for every lb lost from sweat)
- Refuel with carbohydrates (0.5-0.7 g/lb)
Provide protein to repair damaged muscle tissue (10-20 g for endurance training and 20-40 g for strength training)
For more detailed information, you can find the full position paper at the following link for free:
● Enjoy your food, but eat less.
● Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
● Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
● Make at least half your grains whole grains.
● Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
Foods to Reduce
● Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ― and choose the foods with lower numbers.
● Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
You’ve probably heard it before, “eat more fiber”, but do you know WHY fiber is so good for you? Dietary fiber is probably best known for its ability to prevent constipation. However, fiber provides so many more health benefits including; preventing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Fiber also aids in weight loss by making you feel full so you may eat fewer calories during the day.
What Exactly Is Fiber?
Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body cannot digest or absorb. All dietary fibers are either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, citrus fruits, apples, beans and vegetables. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system. Good sources of Insoluble fiber include wheat bran, whole-wheat products and vegetables.
How Much Dietary Fiber Do You Need?
Try to get between 20-35 grams of fiber each day; most Americans only get about half that amount in their diet. To make sure you are getting both soluble and insoluble fiber, eat a variety of foods each day, including fruits, vegetables, dried beans and whole grain products.
Tips To Increase Your Fiber Intake
1. Read food labels, look for the word “whole” before any grains on the ingredient list, and check the number of grams of dietary fiber on the nutrition label.
2. Start your day with a bowl of bran or other high-fiber cereal with 5 grams or more of fiber a serving.
3. Try to eat vegetables with your lunch and dinner.
4. Bring some fruit and vegetables to work with you to snack on during the day.
5. Fiber supplements like Metamucil and Benefiber can also help you meet your fiber needs for the day.
Your muscles break down during a hard workout, but you can stop this breakdown by eating as soon as tolerable after you exercise. Take advantage of the 30-45 minute post-exercise window to repair and build muscles. A 1:3 ratio of protein to carbohydrate is recommended. Refueling with carbohydrates creates a muscle refueling response while protein enhances the process of building and repairing muscles, and reduces muscle soreness. Also, eating protein with carbohydrate after strength training may also stimulate muscle growth by the release of insulin and growth hormone. Even if you aren’t hungry, you don’t need to consume a lot of food to receive the benefits from post-exercise meals. As few as 100 calories can make a big difference.
Guidelines for Recovery
1.Eat within 30-45 minute post-exercise
2.Restore fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat
3.Replace muscle fuel (carbohydrate) utilized during practice.
4.Provide protein to aid in repair of damaged muscle tissue and to stimulate development of new tissue.
Weigh yourself before and after competition and replace what you lose.
Drink 2 to 3 cups (16-24 ounces) of fluid for every pound lost in sweat.
Protein after Recovery
After endurance exercise: consume 10-20 g of protein
After resistance training: consume about 20-40 g of protein
Carbohydrates to Restore Glycogen Storage
Consume 0.5 grams of carbs per lb of body weight within 30 minutes of finishing exercise.
Food Ideas for Post Exercise
Low-fat chocolate milk
Turkey sandwich with 2 oz of turkey
Peanut Butter sandwich with 2 Tbsp of peanut butter
1 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt
2 oz of low-fat cheese and crackers or piece of fruit
Fruit smoothie made with yogurt or milk
Bowl of Cheerios with milk and banana
Skipping breakfast is a common practice among athletes who exercise early in the morning. If you climb out of bed and eat nothing before you start exercising you will most likely be running on fumes. During the night, you can deplete your liver glycogen, the source of carbohydrate that maintains normal blood sugar levels. When you start a workout with low blood sugar, you fatigue earlier than you would have if you had eaten something, you could also feel weak, faint, sluggish and lightheaded. Low blood sugar could also affect your mental ability causing a slower reaction time, which is not something you would want while spotting your teammate bench pressing.
If you eat before you workout you will have the endurance to lengthen your workout, you will perform better by having a delay in the burning feeling in your muscles, and your effort will be less rigorous than those who have fasted before exercising.
How much you should eat varies from person to person just pay attention to how you feel during your workouts and adjust accordingly. The pre-exercise meal should be predominantly carbohydrate because it empties quickly from the stomach and becomes readily available to be used by the muscles. If you will be exercising for less than an hour, snack on foods that are easily digestible and settle comfortably. For example, if you exercise right away in the morning you could try eating a granola bar or a small bagel, toast, dry cereal, yogurt, piece of fruit or even drinking a sports drink will help. Limit high-fat sources of protein (hamburgers, fried chicken, cheese omelets) because they take longer to empty from the stomach. Allow adequate time for digestion. The general rule is to allow 3-4 hours for a large meal to digest, 2-3 hours for a smaller meal, 1-2 hours for a blended or liquid meal, and less than an hour for a small snack, according to your own tolerance.
If you are an athlete who has been trying to exercise in the morning without eating, I encourage you to try and at least eat a small snack with some carbohydrates to see if it can help your performance. Your team and coach will thank you.