Fuel your body before you engage in exercise or athletics, and it will help you to achieve optimal performance. In fact, proper nutrition is a key to ensuring that you are on your “A game” when your body is fueled up.
If you weren’t aware of the importance of nutrition on your performance, think of it like this. You wouldn’t expect to get in your car and make a road trip without putting in gasoline. Likewise, you shouldn’t think that your body can carry you to victory without first being fully fueled and ready to roll.
Here are some of the fuels that you need for your best performance.
As an athlete, you will lose fluids through sweat. It’s vital to restore those lose fluids to keep at the top of your game. The cells of the human body are over 70% water and start to break down rapidly without a sufficient water supply. Therefore, a well-hydrated athlete can think more clearly, perform better, and also avoid injuries.
Exactly how much water do you need? Here are a few guidelines.
- Hydrate before you exercise. Drinking plenty of water before your game or workout will help you avoid dehydration. Drink about 30 oz of water about four hours before your activity, then about 12 oz. of water 15 to 30 minutes before game time.
- Hydrate while you exercise. How much hydration you need is determined by how long you’ll be playing or working out. Plan on about 6 to 8 oz. of hydration for every 15 minutes of activity.
- Re-hydrate after you exercise. Post-workout sports drinks that replace lost electrolytes will help you restore your hydration levels. Drink about 32 oz over a two-hour period after your game. However, if you are working out to lose weight, remember that these are full of sugar and calories; in that case, choose water instead.
Bear in mind that the necessary hydration levels vary based on the intensity of your sport as well as the heat and humidity of your climate.
Athletes need to eat lean protein prior to a workout or game. Protein helps to build muscle tissue and also aids in the recovery of your muscles post-game. In addition, they help you find those short, sudden bursts of energy that you need from time to time during your game.
Some effective pre-workout proteins to eat include:
- Fatty fish
- Greek Yogurt
Plan to eat a small protein-based meal about 2 hours before you intend to exercise or play sports. Follow your workout with a post-workout protein-based meal about 30 minutes to an hour after you are done with your activity.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of sugars that you need during periods of strenuous activity. Carbs are how you supply your body with glucose. Glucose converts into glycogen which is stored in your liver. Glycogen is the burst of energy that you need to remain competitive throughout your game. These sugars also help you to stay in the game for longer by giving you the calories you need to stay energized.
When you’re planning nutrition, look for complex carbohydrates that will be more nutritious. Opt for the following:
- Whole-grain pasta or bread over white flour varieties
- Brown rice over white rice
- Whole grain cereals instead of sugar laden cereals
- Granola bars or protein bars
- Crunchy vegetables like carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower
Eat small servings of these to balance out your proteins during your pre-workout and post-workout meals. They complement each other, and you need this blend to keep up your performance levels.
Fat has a negative connotation for most of us. In our minds, we equate “fats” with “unhealthy.” However, when you’re an athlete you do need essential fats to improve your endurance and help you renew your energy.
Here are some healthy sources of fats to focus on:
- Walnuts or almonds
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna)
- Olive oil
- Nut butters
These are all “leaner” sources of fat that you’ll easily identify at the store. They will usually have a “heart-healthy” logo on the packaging.
Consume these healthy fats on the morning of your game or workout and during your post-game meal in limited amounts.
- Sometimes athletes aren’t hungry directly after a workout or game. This is because of exhaustion. However, your body can’t refuel without eating. So, even if you’d rather crash than eat, make it a point to take a small meal.
- Game-day breakfast is super-important. Breakfast sets the tone for your nutrition for the day and can make a big difference in how you feel throughout the entire day. Combine your food sources to make a great meal. For example, a whole-grain bagel topped with peanut butter will deliver carbohydrates, fats, and protein all in one easy to grab breakfast.
- Get a nice blend of vitamins and minerals. While vitamins and minerals don’t directly give you energy, they are important to keep in mind. When you’re consuming a balanced diet, you will be taking in vital vitamins and minerals as you eat.
- Eat and drink enough to compensate for your energy output. In other words, if you are a marathon runner, you will burn a lot of calories while you’re training for a race. Make sure that you take in enough carbs, protein, fats, and water to compensate for all that you burn off in your activities.
Because you’re an athlete, you need proper nutrition. If you fail to adequately fuel your body, it will show in your performance. The lack of a well-balanced diet can leave you sluggish, slow, and just not quite up to par with your competitors. In fact, poor nutrition can even lead to devastating injuries, which you definitely do not want.
Fortunately, good nutrition is a lifestyle choice. Once you’ve mastered the right combination to keep your body in great condition, you’ll be able to fuel your body for that optimal performance that we all desire.