NUTRITION TIPS FOR THE EVERYDAY ATHLETE
With so many different sports and fitness classes available today, embracing an athletic lifestyle is easier than ever. You might not think of yourself as an athlete, but if you are exercising on a regular basis you are one!
Just because you are not earning money with your hobby it does not mean you cannot have a competitive mindset and a desire to improve your performance and do your best. Nourishing your body the right way can take your training and therefore your performance and results to the next level.
If you are an everyday athlete read on to make sure you fuel your workouts properly.
The energy we use to keep our bodies working and to power additional physical activity comes from the foods and drinks we consume. The foods and drinks you consume are also the sources of the three macronutrients that you need for optimal body functions, energy supply and more. A balanced diet of the three macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) will look different for everybody. The optimal proportion of these nutrients will depend on not only the individual but on the type and the volume of the exercise the person is doing. Let's look at those macronutrients now!
Carbohydrates are known to be the primary fuel source for an active adult or competitive athlete.
Carbohydrates will enter your bloodstream at different stages of the digestion process and once they do, we call them glucose. They are also stored in your muscles in the form of glycogen. Having the right amount of carbohydrates will help make sure that both levels of carbohydrates (glucose and glycogen) are optimal, so you can perform your best.
For optimum performance and health aim to get your carbohydrates from whole food sources like vegetables, fruits and some grains.
The daily carbohydrate need will depend on at least 2 things; body size and training characteristics. Depending on your body size (muscle mass, weight, etc.) and the physical demands of your training, your recommended daily carbohydrate intake can range from 40 to 65 percent of your total food intake (, which also needs to be carefully calculated).
Proteins are responsible for maintaining, repairing and building muscle and aid the recovery process after your training. The amount of protein that is ideal for you varies again according to your body size and training characteristics. Your recommended daily intake can range from 0.8gr to (in extreme cases) 3gr per kilogram of body weight per day. Aim to get your protein from real foods before reaching for a supplement. It is likely that your daily needs can easily be covered by protein rich whole food sources like meat, eggs and fish. If you are a vegetarian or vegan athlete, you might want to incorporate some high quality plant protein sources in your diet such as tofu and most legumes.
Fats are extremely important as they regulate hormones, restore muscle tissue and help maintain energy balance. They are also our secondary energy source during physical activity. Research suggests that healthy fats should make up approximately 30 percent of our total daily food intake. This, however, can vary from person to person. While the high fat / low carbohydrate and low fat / high carbohydrate fan groups are fighting each other, we want you to remember that both of these macronutrients are essential to the human body. Instead of excluding one of them from your diet, finding the right proportions is the key to your athletic and aesthetic goals.
In a nutshell, depending on your sport you might need to play around with your current the macronutrient proportions to feel and look better, recover faster and improve your performance.
EATING FOR ENDURANCE
Longer, 1 to 5 hours per day of moderate to high-intensity exercise needs to be supported with adequate amounts of carbohydrates. Target daily carbohydrate intake for an endurance athlete can range from 5g to 10g per kilogram of body. For endurance athletes, fat is a secondary source of energy for their long-duration training sessions. To avoid dehydration, restoring fluids and electrolytes lost through training is also very important for endurance athletes.
EATING FOR STRENGTH
Strength training uses resistance to build the strength of skeletal muscle. It is also high-intensity work and requires sufficient amounts protein, carbohydrates and fats for proper muscle development. Out of the three macronutrients, protein is especially vital to increase and maintain lean muscle mass. Daily protein needs of a strength athlete can vary from 1.2g to (in extreme cases) 3.1g per kilogram of body weight per day.
While strength athletes usually aim to grow their size and lean body mass to increase performance, endurance athletes more often focus on reducing their body weight for more optimal performance. Your size, sport and athletic goals will determine the best performance or sport nutrition strategy.
WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS?
Many people get overwhelmed by *sports nutrition* and think they need to buy every supplement available to see results. Although there are some great products with a number of benefits that can help increase performance and aid recovery they do not outpower a well put together nutrition plan, sufficient water intake and enough (minimum 7) hours of sleep. In reality, you can get pretty much everything you need from eating the right amounts of the right things. Sports drinks? Unless you are exercising for 90 minutes or more, you will be just fine with water. Protein powders? If you need a quick fix, you cannot chew your protein anymore, you are vegan and struggle to get in your protein or if you are trying to cut down on your meat consumption.
Vitamins and other medical supplements have an extremely important role in your health, but many people just take them without having the need of taking them. Get your vitamin levels monitored, see what you are missing and then pick the ones you really need. For regularly active people iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B,D and E are definitely worth a check.
Vegan and vegetarian athletes should be mindful of their B-12 levels.
Creatine, caffeine, glutamine (to list a few) are performance supplements, that can be a cherry on top of your cake. Just make sure to bake a damn good cake first. Eat a balanced diet filled with whole foods, drink water and improve your sleep.
For a consultation based around your needs and your individual situation, please feel free to reach out to me and we can schedule your free 15-minute consultation.