As you may know by now, high-performance athletes have a strict commitment not only with their daily routines but also with the food they consume. This always depends on the intensity of their training and the modality of the sport they practice. The proper quantity, quality, and distribution of the foods are fundamental in order to achieve a top condition in each field.
In this article, we will review several factors that impact the diet practices on athletes and which ones are the best alternatives you should follow in order to maximize the results on the training field and competitions.
The planning of your food and hydration as a high-performance athlete is the fundamental cornerstone for sports performance. This always has to be considered accordingly to the athlete’s age, sex, and the ideal corporal weight. Furthermore, it needs to be directly linked to the caloric expenditure caused by daily training sessions and the competition. This expenditure exceeds by far the caloric needs of the basic metabolism on a regular inactive person. The major difference resides on how much energy is required to perform on top conditions on a daily basis.
The characteristics of the food intake will depend on the intensity of the following training session or the competition you are about to run. In order to have an adequate nutritional contribution, it is especially advised to have foods with high levels of carbon hydrates. For a high-performance athlete, it is vital to have periods of “digestive activity” with the purpose to properly metabolize the nutrients, proteins, vitamins, and carbohydrates before the following session.
As a high-performance athlete, you should always include salads of any kind on all of your meals; however, it is recommended to avoid gas-producing foods such as cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli. In terms of foods with high levels of fiber and minerals, keep in mind that they are metabolized easily than any other. These ones are like fuel that is consumed really fast, but can make your car run faster than the others.
In terms of meat and protein derivates, it is advised to consume lean beef meat, (preferably grilled), white meat like turkey or skinless chicken and grilled fish. Pork meat is not recommended due to its levels of toxins and its effects on dehydration, affecting your potential performance. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean you can’t have an occasional burger, as long as it is prepared with lean meat. This will ensure a restriction on saturated fats and LDL Cholesterol. The protein intake should vary between 1 to 1.5 gm/kg a day.
Regarding the intake of complex carbon hydrates, you can add to your diet several kinds of pasta (noodles, cannelloni, veggie or ricotta ravioli), rice and potatoes, as long as they are served boiled, or mashed (prepare mashed potatoes with skimmed milk and light butter). Carbohydrates are essential for running, cycling or any other activity involving a high consumption of calories.
It is highly advised to prepare your veggies steamed, on cream, stewed or in soups. Boiled corn is great. Your sugar intake should limit to peeled/boiled fruits, light yogurt with cereal and skimmed dairy products without artificial sugar added.
In general terms, the number of daily meals shouldn’t be less to four, ideally five. In this scenario, it is allowed to have one or two healthy snacks, keeping in consideration the schedule of the athlete, the training sessions, the hours of the programmed competitions, and the times of inactivity during the day.
You need to always keep in mind the particular habits of the athlete when designing a diet. The use of ergogenic aids and nutritional supplements should be considered only in cases when the diet is unable to cover the requirements of a nutrient.
Bottom line, it all comes down to have a diet that won’t be painful or unpleasant for the athlete. We know that you should pay attention to what you eat, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t enjoy the foods you are having.
It is highly recommended to drink high quantities of mineral water, juices and power smoothies without added sugar (drinks powered with acai, kale, and spirulina have detox properties that will positively affect your game). You should calculate the caloric contribution of these drinks, especially if your goal is to prevent gaining unnecessary weight. Some people present a slow metabolism rate that doesn’t consume the energy obtained as they wished.
For many athletes, their major concern resides on how to be constantly hydrated, so they opt to complement their hydration with isotonic drinks. We don’t particularly reject the possibility to do it, however, we do recommend consulting with a nutrition professional before doing it. The reason is that all depends on the particular metabolism of the athlete, the ideal weight he wants and the intensity of the training. Isotonic drinks often have considerable sugar levels that usually affect how the athlete achieve his/her goals.
With that in mind, any isotonic drink should have a high concentration on carbonic hydrates (in between 60% to 70% of caloric charges).
The Role of Your Bodyweight
At this point is crucial to control periodically the body weight by balancing the caloric intake to the same levels of the physical activity. This is especially important for the periods when the athlete is recovering from injuries or on vacations/rest periods. For these moments, you should and decrease the quantity (but not the quality) of the food you have. This has the purpose to maintain an ideal corporal mass when you return to your activities. The ideal percentage of fat mass should be of around 10% for professionals and 15% for occasional athletes.
It is important to prevent drastic changes on the corporal weight due that they normally involve dehydration, an increase of the fatty tissue and a marked reduction of the intake of carbon hydrates. This always leads to a reduction in the performance or fast fatigue in the competition or the training sessions.
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