When you're an athlete, you quickly realize just how much the things you eat can affect your performance. Whatever sport you play or events you participate in, it's important to take a close look at the foods that you eat in order to maximize your athletic abilities. In this article, you'll explore the foods that every athlete should be sure to incorporate into their diet. Additionally, you'll learn ways in which those foods can help athletes in particular, whether it's by helping to reduce inflammation or repair muscles.
For athletes preparing for a big event, carbohydrates are an excellent food option. The body requires carbs as fuel for any type of physical activity, so eating foods with a good amount of carbohydrates is an obvious way to prepare for an event. Since carbs are the body's main energy source, it's important to add moderate amounts of them into your diet. Some of the key foods to eat for carbohydrates include:
A common expression in athletic circles is "carbo-loading." This refers to the practice of eating a larger amount of carbs before a big athletic event in order to provide your body with an extra supply of fuel to combat fatigue and exhaustion. Keep in mind, however, that this should not apply to every type of sporting event. Carbo-loading is best suited for marathon runners or other athletes who will be performing non-stop for 90 minutes or more. For shorter athletic activities, a normal amount of carbohydrate consumption is usually sufficient.
Eating proteins is essential for athletes because their high levels of physical activity will help turn protein into strong muscles. Not all proteins are ideal for an athlete, however. Fatty, red meats should generally be avoided because of their high fat content. Instead, athletes should stick to proteins found in the following healthier foods:
Proteins are great because not only do they build muscle, they also increase nutrient transportation and enzyme production. Additionally, proteins are used by the body to repair muscles, while the omega 3 fatty acids found in many of these protein sources are great for reducing inflammation. Make sure you are also getting enough carbs because the body will use up the protein for energy when carbs are lacking, leading to an insufficient amount of proteins left for rebuilding muscles. At the same time, make sure that you don't eat excessive amounts of proteins, since a high intake of these foods could lead to dehydration.
Fruits and Veggies
One of the best sources of energy for athletes is fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods contain natural sugars that give you a great boost of energy. Some of the best fruits and veggies for athletes include:
In addition to getting energy for your athletic activities, fruits and vegetables can also be a natural source of the electrolytes and enzymes that sugary sports drinks claim to offer. As an added bonus, fresh fruits and veggies that are high in potassium, like peaches, strawberries, tomatoes and carrots, are great for relieving muscle aches and cramps that athletes may suffer from.
Vitamins and Minerals
There are a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that athletes need to perform well. Those nutrients include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin and niacin
Eating a healthy, balanced diet usually provides a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals for an athlete's body. However, taking a multi-vitamin can be helpful for ensuring that you get any of the trace minerals or nutrients that may be lacking in your diet from time to time. It's critical that all athletes get these vitamins and minerals in their diet since they perform essential tasks such as carrying oxygen to the blood cells and aiding with muscle contraction, hydration balance and tissue repair. They also help your body metabolize the carbohydrates you've consumed so that they can be used as fuel during physical activities.