We’ve all definitely been there before. . . .
Crunched for time, nothing prepared and we end up eating whatever we can find in the house – healthy or not, or even worse, come to the gym without eating at all. Then, halfway through the workout (or practice, game, etc.) our energy starts fading quickly and you don’t know how you’re going to get to the end.
So I want you to imagine how your son or daughter feels when they go to a practice or a game without eating . . . .
Which I bet happens more often than you think.
By now you know that eating a balanced diet of healthy nutritious foods consistently is important for our wellness and long-term health. What we sometimes forget is that this is even more important for competitive athletes. A competitive athlete has much higher energy demands those of a non-athlete and the type of food they consume is even more important for optimal performance. Fueling your body with the right foods and at the right times is key to performing at your highest level possible.
So why is it so difficult for athletes to actually eat foods that will help their performance?
The most common responses we hear are:
“I have no time before to prepare”
“My stomach hurts when I eat too close to a workout”
“I don’t know what to eat”
“I already eat so much I can’t eat anymore”
Notice that all of these excuses can easily be addressed with some preparation ahead of time.
Have an early morning practice or training session?
Wake up a little earlier, or better yet prepare foods the night before so there is no confusion early in the morning about what to eat. I’m sure you’ve seen your favorite O.B. coaches huddled over a Tupperware container scarfing down something in between classes. We do our best to eat healthy even though we are usually time crunched.
Not sure what to eat?
Ask one of your coaches for suggestions on what foods you should be eating. Use your resources!
Think you already eat a lot?
Write it down for a day, I bet you don’t eat as much as you think.
Timing Can Be Everything
The two most important times for an athlete to eat is breakfast and the meals surrounding a workout. If all else fails, focus on these meals to ensure that you’re fueled for your workout and recovery.
Before a Workout
Knowing how soon before a workout to eat will change person to person. You know your body better than anyone else does so a little trial and error will give you your answer. As a general rule of thumb, start by eating around one to two hours before you need to perform. Try different times and monitor how you feel to find out what is best for you. What you eat is just as important as when.
Carbs should be your first priority, as they are going to provide the majority of the energy needed to last through your competition.
Some easy to make pre-competition carb sources are:
- Old Fashioned Oats
- Peanut butter and honey on whole wheat bread
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brown Rice
Protein is also essential so it will be readily available to repair the damage done to your muscles.
Some easy to make pre-competition protein sources are:
- Chicken, Beef, Turkey
- Cottage Cheese
- Whey Protein
Use a combination of these that is easy to prepare, can travel with you, and will hit all of the essential nutrients your body will need to prepare for the upcoming workout.
After the Workout
During practice, competition, or a tough training session, your body uses the majority of the stored energy in your body. This stored energy needs to be replaced in order to begin the recovery process so you can be at your best the next time you have to perform. Timing in this case is easier, basically as soon as you can, get more carbs and protein in your system. Trying to aim for a 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein is optimal for muscle repair, according to Christine Gerbstadt, MD.
Easy options to refuel after a grueling workout are:
- Chocolate milk
- A sandwich with chicken/turkey and some veggies
- Oatmeal and fruits
- Pastas and veggies
- Chicken and rice
- Some sort of protein shake
Key Take Home Points
- You need to eat more than you think.
- Carbs are crucial for athletes looking to perform at the highest possible level, both before and after workouts.
- Get a combination of protein and carbs a few hours before a workout and within half an hour after to help with the recovery process.
- Prepare! Set yourself up for success!
Does your athlete need to be schooled in nutrition? Schedule your FREE Strategy Session Today!