Whether you’re a professional athlete or just can’t get enough of your daily Soul Cycle session, it’s important to fuel your body for your high level of activity.
“Athletes will have different nutritional needs compared with the general public. They may require more calories and macronutrients to maintain strength and energy to compete at their optimum level,” writes Louisa Rischards for Medical News Today. “In addition to consuming sufficient amounts of calories and macronutrients, athletes may also require more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for peak recovery and performance.
If you consider yourself an athlete or active individual, you may want to take a moment to make sure you’re putting into your body what you hope to put out. Ready to fine tune your nutrition to improve your next sweat session?
Here are five tips on nutrition for athletes from our team of wellness experts:
Your nutrition and dietary focus should depend largely on your goals.
Depending on physical and competitive goals, nutrition for athletes should be tailored to meet your specific athletic needs.
If you’re an endurance athlete, your focus should be on well-timed and quality carbohydrates. Carbohydrates from whole, unrefined sources will properly and efficiently fill your glycogen stores to give you lasting energy to draw from during an endurance event.
While carbohydrate quality and quantity are important for the strength athlete, protein is of greater importance here. If you’re a strength athlete, replenishing your protein stores after a workout is essential to providing your body with essential amino acids to rebuild muscle and increase strength.
For both athletes, the type of protein is an important factor to consider. There are 20 amino acids, which make up protein, and nine of those must be consumed through the diet, because the body does not make them naturally.
Animal sources of protein are considered complete proteins, because they contain all the essential amino acids. If you’re an athlete who follows a primarily plant-based diet, you should focus on pairing your plant-protein sources properly to ensure you’re consuming all amino acids, so you can build muscle properly. Fortunately, there are many plant-food combinations that can be eaten together to make a complete protein from non-animal proteins.
Lisa Richards, Nutritionist, The Candida Diet
Make sure you're eating a wide variety of foods to ensure you're getting ‘lots of nutrients in.
Many athletes are creatures of habit. They tend to eat the same foods and work out at the same time each day.
While this is a good way to establish a routine that works for you, try to make sure you're eating different foods each day, such as various fruits and vegetables or other forms of protein (plant-based vs. meat). You'll benefit from getting a wider range of nutrition into your diet, which makes you a better athlete.
Look at a total picture of your health, outside of just exercise.
Fueling properly before and after workouts is incredibly important. Our brains love habits and making a schedule. While athletes have one for training, they may not think about having one for managing other aspects of their lifestyle, nutrition included.
Many of my clients will track their diet and exercise but overlook sleep, hydration, and stress, which are also important aspects of health. These can have a big impact on reaching your goals.
Additionally, grabbing the closest protein bar before or after a workout may not be the best choice for your body. Plan and prepare more natural pre- and post-snacks, so you’re less likely to grab something packaged in a pinch.
Also plan for getting enough sleep, dealing with your stress, and drinking enough water to help you make big strides and reach the next level of training.
Jackie Keller, Founding Director, Nutrifit
Make sure you’re covering your caloric needs.
Calories is the currency in which your body pays for all recovery and adaptation, and if you’re not getting enough, you are not going to get optimal results.
For the best muscle and strength gains, make sure to consume at least 0.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. This boosts your training results and cuts down your recovery time. Advanced athletes might benefit from even more, up to 1 gram of protein per pound.
Daniel Richter, Certified Personal Trainer & Powerlifting Instructor
Vitamin D3 can boost recovery, endurance, strength, energy levels and sleep quality.
Vitamin D3 is actually a hormone and not a vitamin, and fun fact: most people are actually deficient in it (especially if you consider the levels required to initiate physiological effects). Exercising also uses up vitamin D3, making deficiency worse – which is why it’s so important for athletes to supplement with it.
At physiological levels, Vitamin D3 promotes deep restorative sleep, adequate ionized blood calcium levels, and metabolism. As calcium is key to muscle functioning, vitamin D3 assures there is always enough.
Judson Somerville MD
Incorporate vitamin D3 into your workout routine with our Intense Defense. Made from lip-smacking passion fruit juice, this tart yet spicy nutritional boost features 235% of your daily vitamin D.
Don't avoid carbs.
Carbs are your brain and muscle cells’ primary source of fuel.
Restrict carbs and you won’t have enough energy to complete a quality session. Low carb diets might leave you with brain fog, fatigue, inability to focus, and irritability.
A quick physiology lesson for you:
Your liver and muscles store precious glycogen , a storage form of carbohydrate. I like to think of glycogen as the money in your savings. The carbs you consume and use as energy are like the money in your pocket. Use the cash first, then tap into the savings if you're out. On the other hand, if you have extra cash, put that back into savings. The question is, could you get far with only the change in your pocket? Maybe to get a snack at the gas station, but not to pay your rent!
Take advantage of those precious carbs. Use carbs as a quick pre-workout energy boost, and fuel with carbs at every meal to help sustain that energy, as well as fill glycogen stores.
Remember that carbs are the key player in nutrition for athletes – treat them as such!
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Anderson's Nutrition
In addition to these helpful tips from our experts, we like to incorporate Restore into our workout recovery routines. This refreshing blend of dragon fruit, pineapple, aloe vera, ginger, and lime juice is a favorite among our athletes looking for a quick boost. Just ask Olympian (and father!) Perry Baker!