Maintaining a strong and healthy athletic performance is more than just a matter of training, practice, and "looking good." Your body needs support in the form of proper nutrition, hydration, and rest in order to keep performing and responding at peak levels.
When you consume a meal or a snack, the food you eat is digested in the body and nutrients are absorbed. This provides the body with energy to perform its necessary functions as food is transformed into calories.
To maximize athletic performances, it is critical that you consume enough calories from a variety of different food sources, since athletic activity burns calories faster than when the body is not performing physical activities.
A balanced intake of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats can provide proper proportions of nutrients to your body and give an edge during a physical activity.
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for endurance and power. Proteins help build and repair muscle, and fats provide slow burning fuel (no crashes in blood sugar) for energy when you are exercising, therefore all macronutrients are important for athletic endeavors.
Research indicates that carbohydrates may be the most important nutrient for sports performance because they are the most efficient fuel for energy production. But healthy carb sources are important, unrefined, non-processed and low sugar! Example; vegetables and fruit! Not chips, a pretzel or noodles all of which will give a quick burst of energy followed by a dip in energy due to an insulin roller coaster).
In addition to fueling our central nervous system, carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen, which can be used when needed during physical activities.
Protein is what rebuilds and repairs your muscles after a workout or game, but it also provides amino acids needed for your muscles during the workout. For this reason, protein – like carbs – is needed both before and after your workout.
Protein is very important to our bodies, but try to avoid unhealthy sources of protein, grass-fed meats, pasture raised chickens and lunch meats from a healthy source (Boars Head lunch meats are good).
Fats have often gotten looked at as unhealthy and bad for our bodies but some fats are good – providing energy and essential fatty acids to your body.
Fats also help your body use vitamins and phytochemicals, as well as move substances in and out of cells and keep your brain, nervous system, and skin healthy.
What are the good fats and where can you find them? Try eating omega-3 fats found in fish such as salmon, nuts, avocados, whole milk products and oils such as coconut, olive, and real butter.
Remember, these fats are good and provide long sustaining energy (like a log on a fire). Avoid high fats in the hours before a workout or game because they take longer to digest, and you do not want to have intestinal cramping or pain during the workout.
A human body is mostly water, comprising over 60 percent of your weight. Water plays a big part in keeping you cool, as well as in flushing toxins from your system.
When you exercise strenuously, you can lose a significant amount of fluid, and it is important to replace that fluid so that your body can continue to function at its best.
Be mindful of the popular sports drinks that contain a lot of sugar, additive coloring and artificial ingredients. (I have alternatives to the popular sports drinks). These can also lead to blood sugar crashes.
Signs of dehydration include feeling dizzy or lightheaded, having a dry mouth and not urinating as much as usual. If you are dehydrated, you will not be as strong and your reactions will not be as fast as they could be.
A common question among athletes is: what should I eat before and after a work out? There are no set answers because every body is different, but these tips can help you put together a fueling plan that will suit your body best.
Eating breakfast replenishes your body's glycogen, which is lower in the morning due to the energy used for sleeping. Eating breakfast each morning is crucial to top performance throughout the day.
Skipping breakfast can leave you feeling tired and unable to concentrate; it also leads to overeating at later meals and snacks. Student athletes who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom than those who skip breakfast.
Early morning practices pose a challenge because you don't want to wake up 45 minutes early to eat. Try eating a snack right before you go to bed, such as berries and yogurt (watch the sugar content, full fat is good), or if you have time eat something with protein, fat and carbs when you wake up. Example, eggs, bacon, sprouted bread or greens. For those athletes on the go, a hard-boiled egg is always good!
Before a Workout
You should generally try to eat one to three hours before a work out to give yourself proper fueling. If you are not energized properly, you will not perform your best.
Your pre-exercise snacks should be carbohydrate-protein-fat to top off muscle glycogen stores, include a small amount of protein to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness, and be low in fat and fiber to ensure optimal digestion.
You can eat a heavy meal four to five hours before a workout with generous amounts of carbohydrates, moderate protein, and fat. An example may be chicken, potatoes/rice, fruit, and salad.
Two to three hours before exercise try, a light meal with a moderate amount of carbs and protein and some fat. Then, in the hour before exercising, keep your intake small. At all times, make sure to keep in-taking fluids to ensure you are properly hydrated.
If you have a long game or practice and are allowed to break in the middle, drink water and if needed BCAA’s (gives fuel to the muscles). If you feel the need to have a sports drink, watch the amount of sugar that is in the drink. Many sports drinks are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners that will cause blood sugar levels to spike leaving you with the feeling of crashing shortly after.
If you feel that you need it, eat a small snack, similar to what you would consume in the 30 minutes before a workout, such as a piece of fruit. Make sure what you eat in this time is light, low in fats and protein, and will not weigh you down when you jump back into your work out.
After the Game
After strenuous physical activity, your body needs to rebuild and repair, and you need to replenish all the fluids you lost through sweating. The most essential thing to do is re-hydrate.
Check the color of your urine. If it is dark, you are dehydrated and need to drink more; if it is light yellow or clear then you are getting enough fluids through your body. Drink three cups of water to every pound of body weight that you lost while active – you usually lose a pound or two in every tough workout (that's six cups of water).
During the workout your body used stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles to power through. As soon as possible post workout, get carbs and protein into your body to allow your muscles to replenish the glycogen that was used and rebuild/ repair any damage done. Post-workout food is especially important if you train hard every day to avoid soreness and injury.
Depending on the time of day, post-workout meals could be anything from a small snack – such as a hard boiled eggs and carrots – to a meal of turkey, potatoes, rice, and milk. Just make sure that your post-workout food intake contains a fair amount of both protein and carbohydrates regardless of the time of day.
Tips for Maintaining Your Athletic Performance
Exercise makes our bodies feel amazing, but how do you properly take care of your body before and after?
Make sure to eat before, during, and after your sport. This helps maintain blood sugar levels, which in turn will help enhance your sports performance.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink water 2-3 hours before your sport, during breaks, and especially afterwards to replenish your body.
Eat fat. Fats are a source of fuel for your body. Healthy fats are strongly advised – such as peanut butter or avocado.
Before exercising, eat a meal with complex carbohydrates (i.e. pasta/better vegetables WITH meat sauce). After you exercise, make sure to replenish some of the calories lost.
We've all had the nervous feeling in our stomach before a big competition, but it is important to eat at least a snack such as a bunch of grapes, toast, or a bagel.
As tempting as it is: avoid sugary fatty and processed foods before exercise, your blood sugar roller coaster and body will thank you later!
I know kids are on the go, as our mine. I am a Isagenix rep. I love their products but also feel passionate about eating whole foods. I do recognize that students just need good nutrient and fast!!! That’s why I do support Isagenix, I have looked over MANY different shakes, protein powders, and supplements. I feel !00% comfortable giving my boys these products’ to support their workouts, games and energy. They are all natural, no additives and low sugar (to support blood sugar). Let me know if you have any questions and I am more than happy to talk about products or whole food sources?