Life as an athlete is both physically and mentally demanding. If you’re not looking after your body (and mind!) while putting it through the pressures of competitive sport, some complications may start to occur.
To maintain top performance while looking after your body, read on to discover six golden nutrition tips for athletes. While there are hundreds of nutrition tips to be aware of as an athlete, the following six provide a good place to start.
1. It’s All About The Protein
As an athlete, protein should form a part of most of your meals. This is because protein helps to build and maintain a strong body and is also required for muscle maintenance and recovery (EFSA, 2010). Great sources of protein include:
- Lean meats (skinless chicken and turkey)
The above foods also contain a whole range of other vitamins, meaning incorporating them into your diet will help to meet your nutritional needs.
2. Eat Foods Rich In Iron
Iron is important for athletes as it is necessary for the transport of oxygen around the body (EFSA, 2009). Oxygen gives us the energy we need to survive, which of course, is needed in greater amounts when taking part in high-intensity activities.
The great thing about iron is that it can be found in many different foods. However, some people also choose to take iron supplements to safeguard their intake. Foods that are rich in iron include:
- Dried fruit
- Fortified breakfast cereals
3. Keep Eating Those Greens
It’s all too easy for athletes to focus on protein and carbs, while forgetting about all the other important nutrients that their body needs. With this in mind, here’s your daily reminder to continue eating your vegetables!
Vegetables should be incorporated into every single meal you eat. They are stacked with several minerals and vitamins that your body needs to function normally. Your body also requires these minerals and vitamins to process proteins and carbohydrates properly, so consider vegetables as a “helping hand”.
4. Sleep Is Your Friend
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the competitive nature of being an athlete, following the misconception that you have to train 24/7. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. To perform to your best ability, you’ll need plenty of rest!
Having a broken or poor sleep routine will leave you feeling groggy the next day, which in turn, will affect concentration levels. This alone will be enough to weaken your performance. Aim to get around six to nine hours of sleep each night, ensuring there are no distractions as you drift off.
5. Reload On Carbohydrates
When it comes to talking about weight loss, many people follow the belief that “all carbs are bad for you”. However, as an athlete, it’s important to understand that this isn’t true. Besides, being an athlete isn’t about weight loss; it’s about performance.
According to the NHS, carbohydrates should be your body’s main source of energy. They get broken down into glucose, which is used by your body for energy later down the line. We all know how important energy is for athletes!
6. Drink Water All Day, Every Day
Intense exercise can leave your body feeling dehydrated far more quickly. To help balance this out, ensure that you drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water helps all bodily functions to work properly, including supporting the transportation of nutrients (EFSA, 2011). Without water, you would become dehydrated and unable to perform to the best of your ability.
There’s a lot that you need to keep in mind when living life as an athlete, but with these six golden nutrition tips in mind, you should be giving your body its best chance to perform well.