Healthy living and healthy eating habits go hand in hand. You can’t be entirely healthy without paying attention to both your activity and your nutrition.
Even if you are working out regularly, practicing yoga, and mindful of everything else in your life, it’s what goes into your body that makes the most impact. In other words, you can be working out and look great on the outside, but unless you are taking care of your body from the inside, all that effort may be going to waste.
Here are some of the healthy eating habits that are most beneficial to athletes:
Athletes need to consume more protein than most people. Protein has many functions in the body:
- It builds lean muscle
- It helps you retain lean muscle
- It allows muscles to recover following exertion
On average, an athlete needs to consume one gram of protein for every pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you need to eat 160 grams of protein to spare lean muscle mass and maintain your body composition.
Lean proteins are best. These include chicken and turkey breast, venison and bison, fish, and low-fat dairy products such as yogurt. Red meat should be eaten sparingly due to its high degree of saturated fat. Choose lean cuts for best results.
Granted, it isn’t easy to consume that much protein. Try it, and you’ll see – you might feel like you have been chewing for some time! For this reason, many athletes choose to supplement their protein intake with protein bars and shakes. If you go that route, an alternative quality protein like New Zealand whey, which comes from grass-fed cows that have not been exposed to hormones or antibiotics.
Other ways athletes get more protein in their diets include substituting quinoa for rice, yogurt for sour cream, adding hemp hearts to smoothies, and throwing some legumes, like chickpeas, into salads. Every little bit helps!
Fats provide athletes with energy as well as essential fatty acids (EFAs). As will most things, moderation is key, as is choosing the right fats. Choose foods that are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, legumes, avocados, and fish like salmon. Peanuts and peanut butter should be consumed in moderation, although if you can’t do without it, choose raw peanut butter or at least one that doesn’t contain a lot of sugar and artificial ingredients. Raw almond butter is a much better choice.
Carbs often get a bad rap, but they are necessary for balanced nutrition and sustained energy. They keep your digestive system working well and they supply the body with a wide range of vitamins and minerals. It’s the type of carbs you have to beware of and the proportions you are eating. Leafy green veggies digest more quickly and are higher in nutrients, but starchy carbs are necessary for endurance. Depending on how you are training, starchy carbs like rice, oatmeal, grains, legumes, and pasta will help you sail through your workout, event or race. A sports nutritionist can help you determine what the proper carbohydrate intake should be for your individual needs.
While these are just general guidelines, there is plenty more to think about if you are concerned about athletic performance. Supplements are often a big part of an athlete’s regime, and hydration is ultra-important.