TOPIC: How Should An Athlete Plan His/Her Daily Nutrition?
Nutrition is a key role for all athletes. It is one of the most important factors for improving performance. Many athletes are too busy training, working, etc. to be able to just prepare whatever they want, whenever they want for themselves.
How can an athlete plan his/her daily nutrition for perfection?
What can an athlete do if he/she is out and doesn't have time to always make the next meal?
Bonus Question: How is your daily nutrition planned out?
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1st Place - DSM18
Many athletes are too busy training, working, etc. to be able to just prepare whatever they want, whenever they want for themselves, but with careful planning and the availability and quality of supplements on the market today, eating properly when life seems too busy IS possible.
In this article I will go through the best approaches to diet for those with hectic lifestyles, the best supplements and prices available and outline smart tips on how to get the most out of your diet when you don't have all the food available at your selection. Please read on.
Planning For Perfection:
How Can An Athlete Plan His/Her Daily Nutrition For Perfection?
Before going on to the bulk of the article where I offer a variety of advice on how to eat when your not always at home, let's go back to the basics of what constitutes a good diet for athletes.
Eating regular meals at constant intervals during the day ensures you are getting enough nutrition, eating consistently, balancing your blood-sugar levels and maintaining a healthy hormonal environment. 6 smaller, balanced meals are ideal to achieve this.
Particularly important here for athletes is their need for complex carbohydrates. Glucose is the primary fuel for the body during strenuous activity, which in turn is converted by the body to glycogen which the body then uses as energy. Ensure you are getting a good quantity with each meal - around 50-75 grams, and more during and after training.
Sources Of Carbohydrates:
Also Natural, High In Micro-Nutrients & Fiber.
- Whole Grain Bread
- Whole Wheat pasta
- Brown Rice
- Whole Meal Bread
Equally important, but often neglected in an athletes diet is protein. Athletes require twice the daily protein to that of an average adult male. Protein provides essential amino acids that the body utilizes during training and to aid in recovery, and helps repair cells and muscle tissue that are damaged in physical activity, particularly body building.
It is recommended athletes consume up to one gram per pound of body weight, and more if you are looking to add muscle mass. Try and eat around 25-30 grams per meal, which is the equivalent of 100 grams of cooked animal protein with a side of carbs.
Select foods with a complete ratio of amino acids, such as those from animal sources over vegetarian. If you do eat vegetarian sources, it's a good idea to combine two food groups, such as beans and whole grain, to ensure together the amino acid content is complete.
Generally Animal-Based Foods.
- Lean Cuts Of Red Meat
- Chicken & Turkey Breast
- Egg Whites
Then there are fats. Divided into three groups - unsaturated, saturated and trans-saturated fatty acids. Saturated fats should be kept to a minimum, while unsaturated fats should form the bulk of your fatty acid intake. These unsaturated fats are a secondary source of energy during exercise and have an important role in the production of hormones, including those required for maximum performance such as growth hormone and adrenalin.
This group of fats can be further divided into Polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 and 6) and Monounsaturated fats (omega 9). Omega 3 is particularly important for athletes because they provide energy, stabilize blood sugar levels and have an anti-inflammatory affect. They come in two forms, ALA, and EPA/DHA, the preferred source. A supplement is advisable.
- DHA: Fish such as sardines, salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel and trout.
ALA: Linseed oil, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, canola and walnuts.
Omega 6: Sunflower seeds, walnuts, evening primrose, safflower, and whole grain.
- Omega 9: Olive oil, cashew nuts, macadamia nuts, avocado.
These include vitamins and minerals found in foods. The role of vitamins and minerals in the human body are so diverse, I could fill hundreds of pages listing them. They are responsible for everything from the effective production of glycogen to maintaining healthy bones, from protecting cell-damage to maintain eye-sight.
Here are few nutrients and foods important for athletes that you should make sure you eating.
Includes Beta Carotene, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, plus plant substances such as bioflavonoids. These can reduce the negative effects of harmful free radicals caused by exercise.
- Dried Apricots
- Black Currants
CO Enzyme Q10:
Avoid Missing Meals:
What's The Best Way To Plan Meals, And Ensure You Aren't Missing Any?
Each morning create an "eating schedule" to ensure you're eating regularly and your intake is planned. Simply write down the timing of each meal, and on a separate piece of each dietary guideline in a simple format, which will aid you in selecting what to eat and when.
This will help you sketch in all the times you need increased attention to diet, such as before and after training, and help to ensure your diet in whole is balanced. You don't need to spend long on this, maybe 5-10 minutes. Keep it with you during the dayâ€¦on your desk, pinned against your office wall or even on your computer. After each meal, you can gladly give yourself a big tick and soak in your accomplishment.
Looking for a way to track progress online? Visit www.fitday.com, a great site where you can record your food consumption and keep track of your progress.
Tips On Selecting Foods:
Need For Variety:
Each food varies significantly in its micronutrient content, therefore its best to select a wide variety of foods from each sub-group each day.
Eat Nutrient Rich Foods:
Select foods with a high nutrition content. The best are fruits, vegetables, whole grain, beans, nuts and seeds. These are also filling with low-calorie content.
Eat Natural Foods:
Select foods that aren't overly processed. They contain too many additives such as artificial coloring, flavors and preservatives to name a few. Instead select foods that are more in their natural state. Also, take note of cooking procedures that can destroy nutrients and add calories, such as the method, temperature and length of cooking.
Don't Neglect Fruits & Vegetables:
These are very low in calories, yet highest in micronutrients which provide energy for athletes. Also contain phytochemicals.
Tips On Timing:
Eat More Around Exercise:
This is the most important time to eat, before and during training your body needs food as fuel for exercise, and your body needs nutrients to be restored after training for proper recuperation and recovery. Carefully plan your eating schedule to ensure you are eating 1-2 hours before training, optionally during training, and most importantly after training.
Eat More During The Day:
Schedule your meals so you are eating the bulk of your food during the day when you are busy. This not only ensures you are fueling your mind and body when they're at work, but also means you are burning calories from the food you are eating.
On the other hand, eating later at night serves as counterproductive because you are just going to sleep on your meal (although it is recommended to consume a protein shake before bed if you goal is added muscle mass).
Big Meals Followed By Smaller Meals:
Its best to eat a large meal (such as sandwiches) followed by a smaller meal (such as a Ready to Drink shake or an energy bar), and follow this pattern during the day. By eating lite, the smaller meals give your body time to most efficiently digest the previous meal, and is suitable for those who find it hard to stomach a larger amount of food.
Balance Blood Sugar:
Not all carbohydrates are the same, some carbohydrates are slow releasing (low G.I) and some are fast-releasing (high G.I). Having sustained energy for athletes is important so they avoid "crashes" in energy levels, so it's important to schedule your diet so your meals have a low G.I.
Tips On How To Plan Low G.I.
Combine protein and fat with carbohydrates at each meal. Protein and fat act to slow down the rate at which carbs are digested.
Ensure you are eating something small every 2-3 hours to maintain sugar levels, and also keep your metabolism fast.
Generally foods in their natural state, such as fruits, vegetables and legumes, have a lower G.I. Processing methods on the other hand tend to spike insulin too high.
Low G.I Foods:
- Whole Grain Breads
- Dairy Products
High G.I Foods:
These don't have to be avoided altogether, in fact most are healthy. Consumed with protein or fat, they will create a low-moderate Glycemic index.
- White Bread
- White Rice
- Refined Sugar Products
Also, ensure you are avoiding take-away and alcohol, and drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
To Sum It Up:
- Eat six smaller meals during the day.
- Ensure you are eating the right quantities of fats, carbohydrates and protein.
- Eat foods high in micronutrients, and supplement where necessary.
- Eat highly nutritious foods in their more natural state, while avoiding takeaway and processed foods.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Ensure you are well fueled before, during and after your physical activity.
- Use the Low G.I approach.
The Next Meal:
What Can An Athlete Do To Schedule If He/She Is Out And Doesn't Have Time To Always Make The Next Meal?
What foods can you eat when you're out? What foods don't require on-the-spot cooking... not a lot? Well you're wrong. With a little bit of creativity, you can use these foods and come up with some pretty diverse range of recipes and meals. And surprisingly your choice is wide enough for you to not get bored with your foods.
Here is a quick summary of each food group.
Fish: There are canned varieties available of many popular home cooked fish, such as tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel and anchovies. You will also find clams and crab meat are now available. Watch for sodium, and choose varieties in spring water.
Whole grain: Wide selection of breads including rye, whole meal, whole grain, pita and pumpernickel. Also rice cakes and corn thins, fresh made popcorn which is actually healthy with all the added butter and salt.
Fruits: Apples, pears, bananas, kiwi fruit, mandarins and a wide variety of summer fruits such as apricots, nectarines and peaches.
Vegetables: carrots, celery, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, spinach - all of which can be eaten raw, and in a variety of salads.
Legumes: Beans such as butter beans, red kidney beans. Red and green lentils. Split peas and black eyes peas.
Nuts: Walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, hazel nuts, almonds.
Seeds: Pumpkin, sunflower, safflower, sesame.
Remember, keep them simple.
What makes a nutritious sandwich?
Protein: Pack in 75 grams of your favorite high-protein filling, such as tuna, chicken or beef, equaling around 20 grams per serving.
Salads: These are virtually calorie free, and very nutritious, so pack in as much as you can - ideas include red pepper, onion, cucumber, tomato, olive and the large variety of lettuce available.
Carbohydrates: These come from the bread. Whole grain is preferred, it has a lower G.I, is more filling and nutritious. Brown or rye is preferred over white bread.
Here are some delicious and nutritious sandwiches you can try:
- Chicken, lettuce and fat free mayo.
- Tuna, tomato, olive and lettuce.
- Salmon, chives, red pepper, tomato and lettuce.
- Beef, onion, tomato, lettuce and mustard.
Nut Trail Mix:
These are delicious. They are dried fruit mixed with variety of nuts, are natural, and high in both protein and healthy fats. Also, high in fiber.
Choose low fat or fat free variety, possibly without sugar. Yogurt is a dairy product that is high in calcium, phosphorus and protein. If you want a change, you can mix in protein with yogurt rather than milk.
If you have time, here are some meals you can prepare at home and take with you.
Dishes made from legumes, beans, split peas: These are all a great source of protein, slowly digested carbohydrates and fiber, while being very low in fats. They can be curried or cooked with olive oil and oregano. Also, they can be made into a bean salad, or even bean burgers (red kidney beans or lentils are best here) and taken with you as a nutritious burger.
Here is a recipe for a bean dish.
Easy 3 Bean Dish - Courtesy Of Evelyn At vegweb.com
- 1 can green wax beans
- 1 can kidney beans
- 1 can garbanzo beans
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1-2 cloves minced garlic
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Ideally, make it around 4-6 hours before eating to soak in the flavor, or the night before. This is a an extremely easy and convenient recipe, simply rinse all the beans and drain, then in a small pan, saute the onions & garlic until glistening, Add vinegar & herbs and mix. While still hot, add to beans and toss gently. Store in refrigerator overnight.
Preparation time: 10 min
Homemade Muesli Bars:
These are healthier than those found at the store, without preservatives and other additives. Here is a recipe courtesy of Val Allen of Abc.net.au. Serves Make 12 bars.
- 1 cup barley flakes
- 1/2 cup pumpkin pepitas
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup coconut
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup dried apricots or apple, diced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp protein powder
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup rice or barley malt syrup
- 1/2 cup apple juice concentrate
- 1 cup quinoa flakes
- 1/2 cup pumpkin pepitas
- 1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup coconut
- 2/3 cup honey or rice syrup
- 2/3 cup tahini
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 6 tbsp protein powder
- 1 egg white
Preheat oven to 180C.
Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Press mixture into a lightly oiled tray. Mark into 12 bars with an oiled knife. Bake for 10-12 minutes until browned.
This is a good recipe as it's suitable for freezing, and you can defreeze them whenever you need one. You can alter the protein content to your liking by increasing or decreasing the amount of protein powder.
Sample Daily Plan:
For an average sized male with a 9-5 weekday job. He leaves home at 8 am and arrives home at 6 pm each evening, before heading to the gym for a one hour workout at 7:30 pm.
6 am: Arise.
7 am: Meal one: 4 egg whites, 2 pieces of whole grain toast with 1 tablespoon of honey. Multivitamin, B-vitamin, antioxidants and any other supplements.
8 am: Leaves home for work.
9 am: Work begins.
10:30 am: Meal Two: At morning tea break. EAS Body For Life Meal Replacement drink, 1 serving of Optimum Whey Protein (Optional) with 1 teaspoon of Linseed Oil mixed in shaker. One Apple.
12:30 pm: Meal Three: Lunch. Larger meal - If out - Grilled fish, serve of salad and steamed vegetables. If pre-prepared, 2 tuna (150 grams total), lettuce and tomato sandwiches on Whole grain bread.
3:00 pm: Meal four: (At desk) EAS Body For Life Meal Replacement Drink, 1 serve of Optimum Whey Protein (optional) with 1 teaspoon of linseed oil. 1 banana.
6:30 pm: Meal Five: Dinner - Steamed brown rice (1 cup) with your choice of freshly cooked red meat, chicken or turkey and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
7:30 pm: Training, whether it's sports-specific, athletic or weight training. Plus, one energy drink.
9:00 pm: Meal Six: within 30 minutes after training. Either another meal as above, but substituting pasta for brown rice at a larger quantity for recovery, or a protein shake with added carbs.
11:00 pm: Retire.
- Total Protein: 207 grams
- Carbohydrates: 380 grams
- Fats: 85 grams
What To Do If You Are Eating Out?
Sometimes you are put in the position where it's your responsibility to eat out, and you know you attend. Other times you may be at get-togethers or functions, whatever the case, just because you are eating out doesn't mean you can't get a healthy, balanced meal in.
Here Are Some Tips:
Ask For What You Want:
When ordering a meal, ask the waitress if they can change the meal to your liking. More likely than not, they will gladly do this. There's no shame in asking, most restaurants regularly alter meals for those with conditions such as diabetes or those on diets. See if you can do these things.
- Keep the food in the most natural state, with little additives such as oils, dressings and sauces. Get the meal grilled or boiled, over deep fried.
- Order a larger serve of salad. Order it plain, and add your own olive oil and lemon to your liking. Alternatively, you can bring your own low-calorie dressing.
- Drink water with your meal, or fresh made fruit juice which is high in Vitamin C.
- Last but not least, chew your food well and enjoy your meal.
Eating At Work:
Be assertive with your boss, tell him you're serious about your training, and most likely he will understand. By working hard and keeping your desk tidy, it will show them that eating there isn't that much of a big deal.
Cook At Work:
If you are lucky to have enough freedom in your job and your own office, you can keep a cooking device such as a griller at work. A family friend is a dental nurse, and has a griller and fridge in her office, and cooks her own lunch each day. You can cook up a grilled chicken for lunch, it doesn't have to be gourmet, just keep it simple, and your protein needs are met for lunch.
The Magic Of Supplements!
What Options Are There If I Don't Have Time To Prepare Meals?
The thought of not having the time to eat 6 solid meals may cause your heart to pound and your mind to race. "How do I have time, I work all day, then I get home, and have to take the kids to training, go to the gym and help my wife prepare dinner". This is above scenario is common with the typical lifestyle today.
"How am I supposed to eat 6 prepared meals a day?" the answer is to supplement 2-3 of your meals with some of the following products. These products are sport specific, meaning they are giving your body exactly what its asking for, they are perfectly balanced and thirdly, to top it off, they are delicious and easily digested.
These contain carbohydrates derived from fast acting maltodextrin and simple sugars to give you an easily digested form of carbohydrates. These products ensure proper hydration, energy and reduced fatigue during exercise. Many products also contain fructose to create a more slow-releasing carbohydrate if your goal is sustained energy.
They can be used before, during and after training, or anytime you need to supplement carbohydrates if the diet is inadequate. These come in the form of powders, gels and drinks, and most contain electrolytes to replace lost sodium and potassium during training.
They can also contain added sport-specific vitamins and minerals to enhance performance. They can also contain antioxidants such as Vitamins A and C to replace free radical damage caused by exercise.
Athletes.com Best 'Carbohydrate' Supplement seller: NOW Carbo Gain
My Recommendation: Cyto Sport CytoMax
This product is very balanced and well-priced - it contains maltodextrin, antioxidants and contains L-polylactate, which acts to offset lactic acid production in your muscles, enabling you to go longer and harder in your training.
| RELATED ARTICLE
Cytomax is the world's most scientifically advanced complex carbohydrate, electrolyte performance energy drink. Ensures proper hydration, steady energy and reduced fatigue during exercise.
[ Click here to learn more. ]
Ready-To-Drink Meal Replacements:
These ready to drink shakes contain a balanced nutritional content of sport-specific vitamin, minerals and macronutrients, and were specifically created for those with a busy lifestyle, giving you everything you would have missed if you ate a meal.
These can serve both your athletic, and bodybuilding needs. They can come in more fitness oriented energy supplements, and drinks for those looking to either loose weight or add muscle mass. There are also those available for people who follow low-carb lifestyles.
ATHLETES.COM Best Seller: Cyto Sport Muscle Milk
My Recommendation: EAS: Myoplex.
EAS Body For Life MRD is a balanced meal replacement drink at a very reasonable price. It contains Moderate carbs, 15 grams of protein, and is low in fat. It has added vitamins and minerals, and even fiber.
| RELATED ARTICLE
It takes a solid nutritional foundation to build your best body ever. Myoplex is designed to take the guesswork out of high performance nutrition, delivering the highest quality protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
[ Click here to learn more. ]
Athletes need almost twice the protein than the average adult man or female. Protein provides the body with the necessary building blocks to produce amino acids that are used for building muscle tissue, and prevent overtraining. The benefits don't end there; protein also supports the Immune system by acting as an antioxidant.
Athletes.com Best Seller: Winner of Supplement of the year, AND Protein of the year!! Optimum 100% Whey Protein.
My Recommendation: Ready-to-Drink Cyto Muscle Milk.
Packed with a healthy ratio of body building specific nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Also contains creatine and lean lipids and moderate carbs, making it a perfectly balanced and especially convenient protein shake.
| RELATED ARTICLE
Muscle Milk is an "evolutionary" muscle formula promoting efficient fat burning, lean muscle growth and fast recovery from exercise.
[ Click here to learn more. ]
You can mix your protein into a ready to drink meal replacement shake to create a more balanced meal. Additionally, you add a tablespoon of linseed oil into your shaker for Omega 3's, and a delicious nutty flavor.
If you don't a fridge available, consider using a juice that doesn't require refrigeration, or simply mix in water.
These are an alternative to protein shakes; they are small meals that are easy to digest and can be eaten anywhere.
(Sorry, I couldn't find a link to protein bars)
It's nearly impossible to get the right quantity of micronutrients from nutrition alone. A lot of the time the portions found in conventional foods are a lot lower than that which is required by professional athletes. What adds to the complication is a busy lifestyle.
It is not always easy to eat all the right foods and additionally, hard work and stress drain the body nutrient supply. Keep in mind that athletes also require more of specific nutrients due to the demands exercise place on the body. So, for both proper fuel, and recovery, any athlete should have a well-planned and balanced supplement program.
Here are important supplements to consider:
It's hard to get all the right vitamins and minerals in diet alone, let alone having a busy lifestyle. A multivitamin contains a balanced ratio of vitamins and minerals and protects you against the strong possibility that you are missing some from your diet alone.
With our busy lifestyles, it's not always easy to eat enough fruits and vegetables - but their importance can't be overstated. They are the only source of plant substances, many of which are antioxidants, and the only source of Vitamin A in the form of Beta Carotene. If you think your intake is inadequate, try some antioxidants.
B-vitamins provide energy by aiding the body in converting the carbohydrates you eat through your diet into active glycogen you body can utilize while you are exercising. If your body is producing glycogen at its best efficiency, you will have longer endurance and energy.
Herbal Energy Stimulators
Other Useful Supplements:
Be organized and write your meal schedule down for the rest of the week. Knowing what and when you eat can ultimately save money when you're shopping because there is less chance of unwanted leftovers.
Always use a shopping list so you don't forget anything, and if you're on a budget, it can serve as a tool to know how much you are spending on food in comparison to other things. When shopping, be sure to take note portion sizes when buying produce such as meats and chicken.
How Is Your Daily Nutrition Planned Out?
I eat protein with a serve of carbs and fat for my 3 larger meals during the day. Proteins I select from include red meat, omega 3 rich fish, chicken, turkey, eggs or seafood. Carbohydrates I select to compliment the protein foods include brown rice, pasta and whole grain bread.
At each of these meals, I'll add 1 teaspoon of olive oil for fats. I simply mix and match these foods and split up the 3 meals at equal time-intervals.
My other three meals include a handful of unsalted, raw nuts or seeds with a banana, a protein shake and breakfast is natural fat free yoghurt, protein and linseed oil with muesli.
I find breaking the meals down this way makes it easier to organize. I mostly keep the meals the same time each day too. This not only eliminates the possibility of forgetting a meal, but establishes a healthy pattern.
I hope the information I provided in this article helps you better organize your diet, and achieve your fitness related goals. With a bit of careful planning and an organized mind state, having a healthy, well-balanced diet is possible, even if you are very busy like most of us.
All the best.
2nd Place - Steve_W
Nutrition is vital to athletic success. If you ask any top athlete in the world today, you will find they follow nutritional plans and guidelines to fuel them with the energy, macronutrient requirements and nutrients that they need for optimal performance. Ongoing sports nutrition research is making it clearer that athlete's dietary requirements are different to those of the sedentary population. A nutritionally sound diet is also essential to both the immediate and future health of the athlete.
Whilst my previous articles have been heavily based on training with little to no mention of nutrition, this is certainly a case of last but not least.
"I'm too busy!"
"But I have to work 10 hours a day plus train!"
"But the only place to eat was McDonalds!"
Sound familiar? Well this article will sum up WHY you should make the time to concentrate on nutrition, and possible ways of implementing this into your daily routine.
Back To The Basics:
Macronutrients, The Framework.
Each macronutrient provides essential elements in food that we need for life and growth. They include the "big 3" Carbohydrates, Fats, Protein, and vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
An Athlete's Best Friend.
An athlete undoubtedly has a higher carbohydrate requirement than a sedentary individual. The main role of carbohydrates in the body is for immediate and sustained energy. Intense training makes a heavy demand on muscle glycogen, and glycogen depletion is a major cause of fatigue in athletes, hence a very good reason for a decent dietary carbohydrate intake.
Athletes should rely on nutritious carbohydrate foods, that provide other essential nutrients such as fiber and protein, as well as vitamins and minerals. Meeting carbohydrate needs is crucial for athletes, yet many find it difficult.
- Whole grain products (breads, cereals, pastas)
- Low fat dairy (yogurts, milk, cheeses)
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes
- Beans, lentils
AVOID: Excessive processed foods, large amounts of refined sugar other than around the exercise timeframe.
|Estimated Dietary Carbohydrate Requirements For Athletes|
|Daily Training Level ||Estimated Carbohydrate Guideline|
|Light training |
(<60min per day)
|5-6g/kg of body weight|
|Moderate training |
(60-120 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise)
|6-8g/kg of body weight.|
|Endurance training |
(120 of intense training)
|8-10g/kg body weight.|
|Extreme Endurance |
(5-6 hour intense training)
|10 plus g/kg body weight.|
Approximately 40-65% of your total calories consumed should come from carbohydrates, but this is really dependent on your sport, type of training and overall activity level.
You Can't Live Without It.
Whilst carbohydrates are essential to the athlete, there is no set guideline. You can survive without them. Protein deficiency, on the other hand, is something pretty darn serious. Protein is the basic structural substance of the cell, forming bone, skin, muscle, hormones, hair, etc.
It is also crucial for muscle growth and maintenance. Athlete's require a greater amount of protein than sedentary people, though excessively high protein intakes do not necessarily improve muscle size, or strength and is not optimal for athletic performance. It is proven that a dietary intake of approximately 1.7-1.8g/kg of protein is sufficient1, though with high energy demands, more protein should obviously be included to provide balance. 20-30% is a good range for the athlete.
Most of your protein requirements should come from complete protein (full spectrum of amino acids) and can be found in the following foods:
- Protein powders
Plant foods provide "incomplete" protein, which lacks amino acids. Whilst these amino acids are not useless, your main dietary intake should come from complete sources.
It Doesn't Make You Fat!
This isn't the 90's! The myth that fat makes you fat is one of the worst myths that have floated around. Fat is ESSENTIAL. It plays many important roles in the body; it is an energy source (though not to be relied on for performance) and plays a major part in hormone production and structure of the body cells.
Athletes should consume approximately 20-30% of their daily intake from fats, focusing on adequate Omega 3's, mono-unsaturated fats and some poly-unsaturated fat with a smaller emphasis on saturated fat, which although essential, excessive consumption is linked to many health issues.
- Mono-unsaturated fats: Nuts, avocados, olive oil, olives, seeds, peanut butter, eggs
- Poly-unsaturated: Flax oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, fish
- Saturated fat: Aim for lower fat varieties of dairy, coconut/coconut oil (though different in nature, not a "harmful" SFA (saturated fatty acid) AVOID: Fatty meat, cream, butter. Trans fat2.
Do YOU Drink Enough?
Water is very overlooked. It is second of importance only to oxygen as a nutrient of the body. It is the medium for transporting nutrients, removing waste and regulating body temperature.
Adequate water is essential, ESPECIALLY pre/during/post training. Make sure you drink enough; athletes typically only replace 30-70% of sweat and other fluid lost during training; don't let yourself make this mistake!
Vitamins & Minerals.
These are required both for health and are essential for optimal physical performance. Poor mineral status is known to affect athletic performance as well. These occur in a wide variety of foods and are essential for nerve transmission, muscle contraction, fluid and electrolyte balance, energy production pathways and bone, muscle and skin and blood structure.
The solution? A healthy, balanced diet with a wide variety of foods, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. I would recommend 3-5 servings of fruit, and 5-10 servings of vegetables. Obviously vegetables are not necessary around performance timeframe, but in general, your mother was correct. Eat those vegetables.
On top of this, I recommend a daily multi-vitamin, purely as insurance that you are getting everything you need. NOTE: This should NOT replace your balanced diet; it does not work that way.
There you have it. I have presented the basics about the macro and micro nutrients, and why and how imbalance can affect your performance. So this is all very well, but what next? Planning.
Planning For Perfection:
How Can An Athlete Plan His/Her Daily Nutrition For Perfection?
The Training Diet: Key Concepts
- Provide athletes with enough fuel and fluid to meet the demands of training.
- Provide them with all the nutrients essential for good health, and in the right balance.
- Help them achieve long term health goals through adequate nutrition.
- Trial various eating strategies for competition - to see what works best for you.
Let's face it, without planning or goal-setting, you will never succeed in anything. If you want something enough, you will do what it takes to get there. If you want to perform at your absolute best, no matter what your sport is, nutrition is your driving force. It is your fuel. What's the use of a car without an engine? The same principle applies to an athlete with lousy, unbalanced nutrition.
The key to planning your daily nutrition is the understanding your macronutrient needs, and basing meal plans and strategies around this. It does not have to be complex, or incredibly time consuming. An understanding of foods that fuel performance which I have covered earlier, is all that is necessary. The rest of the decisions are down to YOU, your food likes and dislikes, and the way in which you like to structure your daily nutrition.
- Eat more frequently. 5-6 feedings a day is far more beneficial in keeping steady blood sugar levels, along with energy, and satiety. The way in which you do this is up to you, you can structure it into 5-6 smaller meals, or 3 larger meals with 3 "snacks" in-between.
- Focus on complex carbohydrates. This should be the base of all, or most feedings.
- Combine a low-fat protein source. Put some chicken breast on your pasta and broccoli, for example. Drink a glass of milk and eat a couple of eggs with your morning oatmeal.
- Don't neglect your fats. Aside from around the training/performance timeframe, when you want to keep fats and fiber pretty low, eat a healthy fat choice with each meal. Some salmon as your protein source for dinner, providing healthy fat as well. Add some peanut butter to your sandwich, snack on some almonds with your yogurt!
- Fruits and vegetables; at each meal. Add some salad with your lunch, steamed broccoli with your dinner. Tomatoes and onion with your breakfast omelet or onto your sandwich. Add an apple to your lunchbox, a banana to your morning snack. Some melon for after dinner!
- Drink your water!
The possibilities really are endless. I'm not going to set a meal plan, because food likes/dislikes and eating habits are highly individual. Use your discretion, choose your "power foods" wisely and eat sensibly as YOU like to, not what someone else tells you to do. It's really not hard to implement these tips into your routine. It all comes down to "how much do you want it?"
The Next Meal:
What Can An Athlete Do If He/She Is Out & Doesn't Have Time To Always Make The Next Meal?
Well, ok, I'll admit, it's almost impossible to bring food with you everywhere you go. When on the run, there are some perfectly acceptable options.
Always take into account the training principles when making your choices. That Big Mac at McDonalds or plate of fish and chips is not going to cut it. There are no good reasons to eat junk food (often, anyway), only excuses. There's a chicken salad, or grilled chicken sandwich instead of those nuggets. A baked potato without cream or butter, rather than those fries.
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EAT: Food described as grilled, boiled, roasted, poached and baked
EAT: Whole grain products
EAT: Lean protein sources
EAT: Nuts, olives, avocados
EAT: Fresh fruit and vegetables
ORDER: Beverages such as low-fat milk, juice and water.
ORDER: Red pasta source instead of calorie/fat laden white sauce.
AVOID: High fat foods, refined carbohydrates, overly processed foods
An example of a satisfactory lunch on the run is picking up a couple grilled chicken breast/tuna sandwiches, on whole grain bread filled with some vegetables, with an apple and a serving of almonds and perhaps a separate side salad. All of these foods can be picked up without having to take anything with you, though preparation and packing your own foods is always preferable and should be prioritized.
There is no excuse or easy way out, just desire and dedication. Nutrition is just as important as your training.
How Is Your Daily Nutrition Planned Out?
My personal nutrition is planned out pretty simply. I know how many servings of protein, carbohydrates and fats I need to consume and the appropriate timing of these relating to my activity and goals at the time. Currently I do not play any competitive sports, am a university student and my interest is bodybuilding. I base my nutrition around my schedule and goals, an example of so may looks like this:
Meal 1: Oatmeal, eggs, egg whites, tomatoes, onion, 1 serving fruit, some almonds.
Meal 2: Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread, a chicken wrap with chicken breast, fat free cheese and spinach, cucumber and carrot on a whole wheat wrap.
Meal 3: Sweet potato, broccoli, tuna, peanut butter.
Meal 4: Sweet potato/white potato/brown rice, a lean protein source, vegetables, almonds/cashews.
Meal 5: Salmon, vegetables, olive oil.
Meal 6: Cottage cheese, peanut butter, vegetables.
I hope I have emphasized the importance of nutrition enough. It is absolutely vital for so many reasons. Do not be that athlete to neglect it! Learn good nutrition, live good nutrition; unleash the power and health benefits that it will provide you for your athletic success.
In a double-blind crossover study, Lemon et al1 examined protein requirements of novice bodybuilders undergoing an intensive strength training program. 12 untrained subjects received either an isoenergetic protein supplement or a carbohydrate supplement for 1 month while undergoing an intense, 6 day per week, 1.5 hour per day strength training program that was supervised by experienced bodybuilders.
The 2 1-month treatment periods were separated by a 7 day washout period. Subjects receiving the protein supplement ingested 2.62 g of protein per kg bodyweight per day, while subjects receiving the carbohydrate supplement ingested 1.35 g/kg. Nitrogen balance, voluntary and electrically evoked strength, creatinine excretion, muscle area (measured by CAT scan), and biceps nitrogen content were measured.
FINDINGS: On the basis of 3-day nitrogen balance measurements after 3.5 weeks on each treatment, the protein intake necessary to achieve zero nitrogen balance was approximately 1.4-1.5 g/kg per day. Based on these results, the recommended intake was 1.6-1.7 g/kg per day.
No significant differences were found between groups for any measurements, although nitrogen balance was significantly more positive in the group ingesting 2.62 g/kg of protein per day. Subjects ingesting 1.35 g/kg of protein per day were in a negative nitrogen balance.
IMPLICATIONS: In novice bodybuilders, increasing protein intake from 1.35 g/kg per day to 2.62 g/kg per day does not result in enhanced gains in strength or muscle size over a 1 month period. Further research is necessary to determine whether enhanced gains will occur over a longer period of time.
The nitrogen balance for subjects receiving only 1.35 g/kg per day was negative, indicating that these subjects needed to ingest more protein. Since an intake of 1.4-1.5 g/kg was necessary to achieve a zero nitrogen balance, a protein intake of 1.6-1.7 g/kg bodyweight per day should be sufficient for strength athletes undergoing an intensive strength training program.
1. Lemon, P.W.R., M.A. Tarnopolsky, J.D. MacDougall, and S.A. Atkinson. Protein requirements and muscle mass/strength changes during intensive training in novice bodybuilders. J. Appl. Physiol. 73(2):767-775. 1992.
Protein requirements and muscle mass/strength changes during intensive training in novice bodybuilders.
Lemon PW, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDougall JD, Atkinson SA.
School of Biomedical Sciences, Kent State University, Ohio 44242.
This randomized double-blind cross-over study assessed protein (PRO) requirements during the early stages of intensive bodybuilding training and determined whether supplemental PRO intake (PROIN) enhanced muscle mass/strength gains. Twelve men [22.4 +/- 2.4 (SD) yr] received an isoenergetic PRO (total PROIN 2.62 g.kg-1.day-1) or carbohydrate (CHO; total PROIN 1.35 g.kg-1.day-1) supplement for 1 mo each during intensive (1.5 h/day, 6 days/wk) weight training.
On the basis of 3-day nitrogen balance (NBAL) measurements after 3.5 wk on each treatment (8.9 +/- 4.2 and -3.4 +/- 1.9 g N/day, respectively), the PROIN necessary for zero NBAL (requirement) was 1.4-1.5 g.kg-1.day-1. The recommended intake (requirement + 2 SD) was 1.6-1.7 g.kg-1.day-1.
However, strength (voluntary and electrically evoked) and muscle mass [density, creatinine excretion, muscle area (computer axial tomography scan), and biceps N content] gains were not different between diet treatments. These data indicate that, during the early stages of intensive bodybuilding training, PRO needs are approximately 100% greater than current recommendations but that PROIN increases from 1.35 to 2.62 g.kg-1.day-1 do not enhance muscle mass/strength gains, at least during the 1st mo of training. Whether differential gains would occur with longer training remains to be determined.
Surely one of the main reasons Bodybuilding.com opened Athletes.com is simply because the needs of bodybuilders differ greatly to all other athletes. Nutrition is probably the single biggest area of difference.
For a bodybuilder, nutrition is often accountable for 30-70% of success; along side training and recovery. For athletes however that figure is probably much closer to 0-10%. Simply put no matter how perfect one's nutrition is it will not make you a better athlete. PERIOD.
Without the talent, dedication, work ethic and training you will not improve as an athlete. What nutrition can do for an athlete is improve performance. It will not directly make you a better athlete, but it will enable you to train and play harder, longer and also improve your recovery.
Up until recently athletes really didn't concern themselves with what they put into their bodies. However as sports become more and more professional, athletes are forced to look after themselves more. From bringing in dieticians to map out meal plans to maximize performance about 10 years ago, and today where athletes are weighed several times per day and their urine is tested for hydration level; sports nutrition has come a long way.
Again however it is important to note that all these measures will do is simply improve the elite athlete's performance and hopefully provide an edge in competition, not transform their abilities.
When looking at planning out ones day, an athlete must address their training/competing schedule and base their nutritional choices around that. Like a bodybuilder who eats differently around their workouts, athletes need to as well. However, unlike bodybuilders athletes are not solely concerned with remaining in a positive nitrogen balance and therefore can and should have a less regimented nutritional regime.
Eating every 2-3 hours isn't vital; in fact it's debatable whether or not that could be a hindrance. Riders in the Tour de France mainly eat twice per day, morning and night. They also snack during the event but they only have two proper meals. Some might think this is due to the time demands of the race, but even if a stage goes for 6 hours that leaves a lot of time in the day.
Two proper meals per day is all they eat and this is the most demanding sporting event on earth. This is not recommended however. A minimum for a hard training athlete should be 3 meals plus 2 quality snacks per day, while 5-6 smaller meals may be more advantageous.
Some athletes don't eat the same thing day in day out. They will radically modify their eating in a lead up to a major event. The most common method of this modification is quite well known. It is carb-loading.
Ultimately, missing a meal for an athlete is not too much of a concern. That is unless that meal is breakfast or pre-event/training. Stressing about a missed meal will cause much more damage than the missed meal itself. However, if one does find themselves in a situation where they are unable to prepare a meal there are options available.
Firstly, if you know you will be in such a situation, why not prepare the meal in advance and take it with you. I mean it's just like taking your lunch to school or work.
If you do in fact need to purchase something to eat, simply be smart about it. While athletes are not limited to the food choice bodybuilders are, (e.g. its not uncommon for an athlete to eat honey sandwich after honey sandwich, all on white bread) there are still smarter options available.
Junk foods and 'fast foods' should be avoided, especially on days when you train or compete (but try telling that to Ryan Bailey). Meal replacements are a good choice depending on the time of day or your goals. Typically, meal replacements have great quality proteins, but insufficient of ineffective carbohydrates.
Nowadays some firms are producing MRP's for athletes, such as Myoplex Sport. Energy bars are in a similar situation with some being much better than others. You really need to investigate the options fully and plan ahead; otherwise you might just get yourself a bar which isn't any better than any old junk food.
In general athletes tend to prefer whole foods to supplements/MRP's. In fact many on these boards have a very one-eyed bodybuilding style perspective when it comes to nutrition, simply because that is what they have been exposed to and where their knowledge is.
In many interviews or newspaper articles with athletes who have began taking the simplest of supplements (e.g. protein powders) seem to make a big deal about it and are not very knowledgeable in the area. Like everything research and experimentation is required.
If you are in a situation and absolutely have to by something to eat you have two options:
Remember you are an athlete, not a fitness model or bodybuilder preparing for a contest or a shoot. I mean those guys don't touch steamed chicken in the off-season, but Shawn Ray has been know to visit MacDonald's 4 times a day. Bottom line is if it is before training or an event or a regular habit, indulging in 'not-so-good' food is perfectly fine and often important for ones psychological well being.
My current nutritional plan is as follows. It is set up to help achieve my off-season goals of increasing muscle mass and strength. I still allow myself quite a lot of flexibility meal to meal and day to day with great results. Personally I feel the strict constant eating like a bodybuilder to be self defeating.
It causes I stress level and basically consumes your whole day, you never can escape it and just relax. While some aspects of a 'bodybuilders' diet should be incorporated, as a whole it isn't a way to go for athletes. Here is an example of my daily meal plan:
I might snack at various times with a favorite being rye crackers and cream cheese or nuts.
In closing, it is important to remember there are too many factors which make a successful athlete. Most of these such as highly developed motor skills are decided long before you even begin playing sport. Nutrition, no matter how perfect will make a mediocre athlete into a great athlete.
That said good nutrition will improve the performance of a mediocre athlete and allow them to train and play harder and longer. Most professional athletes who do eat right, don't usually begin until the get to the highest level, this is when they get all the resources and access to nutritionists. By starting early and eating well you can get a jump on your opposition... so, what's stopping you?