Everyone knows that nutrition is a big part of living a healthy life style, athlete or not. You’ll often see that athletes focus just as much on diet and nutrition as they do their training. There is good reason behind this as food is your fuel, and you definitely want to be running the race gas when it’s time to put your body to work. You really have to be in tune with your body to witness the difference the foods you eat make. The fact that I spend the majority of my day practicing or training really allows me to do just that. I am able to tell which foods give me more energy and endurance and which types of foods leave the tank feeling a little bit empty. Keep in mind that everyone is different, so what may work for me may not work as well for the next person. Here are some tips to better nutrition and performance.
1. Keep it simple: I try and keep my nutrition as simple as possible. I like to keep my food as close to natural as possible. What do I mean by this? I mean that I am not getting too fancy with my meals by adding a bunch of artificial non sense. I also find myself steering far away from canned goods. A meal for me might have some grilled chicken with some lemon juice for extra flavor, some lightly steamed or raw broccoli, a baked potato, and some cottage cheese. (Keep in mind I eat A LOT, as I am a 20-year old athletic guy). It may sound bland, but it becomes very refreshing knowing exactly what you are eating. You may have heard the saying, “if it tastes good, spit it out.” That may be a little extreme. Okay maybe VERY extreme. I can assure you that the more natural and simple you eat, the more you will begin to enjoy the taste. FAIR WARNING: You may find yourself growing very uneasy with the smell and taste of fast food.
2. You work on preparing yourself every day, whether it is on the track, on a bicycle, in the water, or in the gym. Why wouldn’t you prepare yourself in the kitchen as well? A big part of having enough energy for the day or a big even is what you eat prior. Athletes often begin fueling up days in advance to their event to assure they will have plenty of energy to sustain them. Even if you don’t have a big event coming, you can still prepare yourself each and every day. Knowing that I am going to spend the day away from the house, I pack myself some small meals and bars to keep myself going hard throughout the day.
3. Fueling up: Most athletes will fuel up in advance like I said. Complex carbohydrates are perfect for athletes such as me. This is what is being talked about when you here about athletes “carbo loading”. You can fuel up with a nice healthy dinner and a big breakfast of course, but also with the Natures Bakery fig bars. If I know I am going riding or cycling you’ll always see me eating a fig bar a half hour to an hour before because I know they will give me the needed energy.
4. Refueling: After you’re done doing your exercise it is important to refuel your body. A lot of people turn to supplements to do this. I on the other hand turn to food. I figure why “supplement” part of my nutrition, when I can use food to do the job. Another thing is people quickly turn to pure protein right after exercise. I have learned that what your body is actually wanting and needing is carbohydrates, and protein later to repair itself. Once again Nature's Bakery fig bars are perfect for this, they have an ideal balance of carbs, protein, and calories.
5. You will see me eating light and eating often throughout the day. Being that my day consists of a lot of exercise, I am always eating to have energy. I try not to eat too much, as anyone who has ever ran with a full stomach knows that is a terrible idea. I am sure Nature's Bakery didn’t just conveniently get lucky with the perfect portion when sizing the product, they thought that one out well in advance.
6. I am always trying to jam in vegetables wherever I can in a meal. Something that I have really taken to is spinach. Instead of regular lettuce I typically replace it with spinach. This is just a personal preference. A general rule of thumb would be the greener, the better. If you are into making smoothies a quick trick is to throw in a hand full of spinach in with whatever flavor smoothie you are making. Yes, it may look gross and green, but I promise you won’t taste it one bit.
7. Don’t burn yourself out. No one said you have to quit enjoying food. You will hardly ever see even the most dedicated athlete do that. Make good nutrition something enjoyable for yourself. Trust me, it makes it a lot easier that way and will soon just become another habit.