Nutrition must be a priority if your goal is consistent high-level performance. Performance nutrition can be the difference between average and awesome! It is the great equalizer! Performance nutrition is not just about eating pasta and drinking Gatorade though. It is about eating to maximize health, minimize illness, optimize energy production, maintain a healthy body composition and accelerate recovery and healing. A true edge is gained by eating for health and performance every day, not just on game-day!
Rules of the Nutrition Game
1. Eat breakfast daily within 30 minutes of getting up, unless you have a morning workout. Before a morning workout eat something light; a banana, granola bar or a bottle of Gatorade then eat a good breakfast as soon as you finish.
2. Breakfast must include (at least) 1 piece of fruit, 2 servings of complex carbohydrates (whole grains) and 1 serving of lean or low-fat protein (egg whites, low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese).
3. Eat at regular intervals throughout the day; 3 meals and 2 or 3 small snacks. Do not go longer than 3 hours without eating something. When you’re hungry you lose the ability to make good choices and tend to overeat.
4. Balance your caloric intake with your activity level. On heavy training days and competition days, eat more calories and more carbohydrates. On heavy days, be sure that at least half of the food on your plate at each meal is carbohydrate. Never compromise your carbohydrate intake during the 24 hours prior to competition.
5. On light training days and off days reduce your total carbohydrate intake. In particular, reduce your intake of fast-absorbing carbs. “Fast carbs” include: breads and rolls, sweetened cereals, white rice, pasta, pancakes/waffles, biscuits, juices and pretzels. These are “gameday” foods, not “rest” day foods.
6. Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds in to each meal. These natural foods are excellent sources of vitamins A, C and E, phytonutrients, fiber and many minerals that strengthen the immune system, accelerate recovery, protect our bodies from pollution and stress. They are also a great source of energy.
7. Incorporate lean and/or low-fat protein in to each meal. Protein is found in dairy foods, soy foods, animal foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs) and some vegetable foods (seeds, nuts). Do not rely on the same protein foods at each meal, or each day. Before heavy training sessions and competition avoid high fat protein foods and processed or smoked meats, which take a long time to digest. These should also be avoided on inactive days, because of their high fat content. Better protein choices include: low-fat dairy products, poultry, egg whites and fish.
8. Drink adequately at all times, to prevent dehydration and overheating. Super-hydrate before exercise, remain hydrated during exercise (drinking 4-8 oz. every 15-20 minutes) and replenish any lost fluids after exercise. The best way to monitor your hydration status is by your urine. Urine output should always be significant and urine color should be clear.
9. Eat immediately following exercise. During the first 30-60 minutes you should begin to focus on recovery. Eating during this window will accelerate glycogen repletion and protein synthesis, and minimize muscle breakdown. You should eat and/or drink foods and fluids that contain “fast” carbohydrates, protein and antioxidants (especially vitamins C & E). A good post-workout snack could include a sports bar or bagel with peanut butter, with a banana and either orange juice or a sports drink. After this post-workout snack you should eat a balanced meal within 2 hours.
10. Your body only repairs itself when you are sleeping. Always be sure to get a minimum of 7- 8 hours of quality sleep. Also, try to maintain the same sleeping patterns- go to bed at roughly the same time each night and get up at approximately the same time each morning. Your body works best when it is in a routine.
Breakfast Foods of Champions
• Whole-grain cereals (low in sugar) with fruit and low-fat, skim or soy milk.
• Oatmeal with banana or other fresh fruit, milk, nuts & cinnamon (to get some extra protein add 2 tbsp. soy or whey protein powder).
• Fresh fruit and unsweetened fruit juices.
• Buckwheat pancakes with fruit and syrup.
• Whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel or multigrain breads and bagels with fruit jam, light cream cheese or peanut butter (preferably organic).
• Low-fat yogurt with granola, oatmeal, nuts or dried cereal mixed in.
• Egg white omelets with vegetables and cheese.
• Breakfast burrito with egg whites, vegetables, cheese and salsa wrapped in a tortilla.
*The goal is to consume foods that provide fuel (complex carbohydrate), assist with tissue growth and repair (protein) and enhance recovery (complex carbohydrate and antioxidants).
Lunch/ Dinner Options
• Sandwiches with turkey, tuna or hummus and vegetables on whole grain breads.
• Peanut butter and banana in whole wheat pita bread.
• Salads (choose spinach if available) with carrots, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lean turkey, beans or hard-boiled eggs and low-fat dressing.
• Black bean and rice burritos with salsa and guacamole.
• Grilled chicken breast sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles.
• Pasta with marinara sauce, garden salad and wheat bread.
• Turkey or tuna subs with lettuce, tomato, green pepper, onion, pickles and mustard.
• Chicken, turkey or tofu stir-fry with vegetables and rice.
• Vegetable pizza with cheese, garden salad and low-fat dressing.
• Turkey or veggie burgers with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles.
• Grilled chicken (skinless) or fish (not breaded) with rice and vegetables.
• Fruit smoothies (fresh fruit blended with milk or fruit juices and crushed ice- add 2 tbsp. of protein powder for extra protein or 2 tbsp. peanut butter for more calories).
• Yogurt smoothies (fresh fruit blended with non-fat yogurt or frozen yogurt and crushed ice).
• Trail mix (buy it or make your own- nuts, seeds, raisins, chocolate chips, dried fruit).
• Whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese.
• Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on wheat bread with a glass of skim milk.
• Clif Bars, Balance Bars & other meal replacement bars*.
• Low-fat granola bars.
• Fresh or dried fruit.
• Unsweetened fruit juices.
• Bagels or English muffins with fruit jam or low-fat cream cheese.
• Baked tortilla chips and salsa.
• Low-fat yogurt (add dried cereal, nuts, oatmeal and/or dried fruit).
• Fig Newtons (also apple, cranberry and raspberry) and low-fat milk.
• Hard-boiled egg whites.
• Unsalted almonds, peanuts or soy nuts.
• Cereal (whole grain, low sugar) and skim milk.
• Oatmeal (mix uncooked oats with yogurt for a great snack).
*Energy bars like Power Bars are best before and during exercise since they are primarily carbohydrate (lots of quick sugar). Meal replacement bars are better snack and post-workout bars since they contain more protein, which is important for assisting with recovery after intense workouts.
Athletes must drink regularly and abundantly- before, during and after exercise. Water is always the best choice, except during prolonged intense exercise, when sports drinks are best. Avoid diuretics like caffeine, alcohol and excessive sugar.
Before: Drink 16 oz. of water 2 hours before and another 4-8 oz. (of water or sports drink) 15-20 minutes before.
During: Drink 4-8 oz. of water or sports drink every 10-15 minutes.
After: Drink 16-24 oz. (2-3 cups) for every pound lost during a workout or game. Or, monitor urine color and output. Urine should be clear in color and output should be significant in a hydrated state.
*Eating high carbohydrate foods (especially fruits and vegetables) assists with fluid replacement. A high protein intake negatively effects hydration.