There is a prevailing misconception that athletes have the freedom to eat whatever they please without consequences. However, the truth is that athletes have a set of additional dietary needs to support their endurance and performance goals. Beyond maintenance of their weight, athletes must fuel their bodies to support factors such as muscle repair and growth, sustained energy levels and recovery. There are three crucial areas that athletes should focus on to optimize their performance.
Fuel with Fibre
Fibre often takes a back seat as an important nutrient, but its significance cannot be overstated. Incorporating more fibre into your diet can drastically enhance energy management. Foods high in fibre help stabilize blood sugars, and they are typically rich in essential vitamins and minerals crucial for energy production.
Furthermore, fibre aids in weight management by inducing a feeling of fullness and slowing down digestion, reducing the likelihood of overconsumption of calories. Beyond weight control, the benefits of fibre extend to positively impacting cholesterol levels and promoting healthy digestion.
Protein is essential for repairing muscles damaged during exercise and facilitating the development of larger and stronger muscles crucial for peak performance. Similar to fibre, protein’s satiating effect aids in managing hunger.
For athletes relying on plant-based protein sources, sports dietitian Michael Fouts recommends a daily intake of three to four servings, each containing 25-30 g of protein. Beyond muscle repair, protein plays a pivotal role in regulating metabolism, immune system function, and the structural integrity of ligaments, tendons, hair, skin and more.
Staying hydrated is a cornerstone of athletic performance, impacting workouts, training sessions, recovery, and injury prevention. Since our cells, organs and tissues are predominantly composed of water, dehydration can have severe consequences.
Dehydration reduces blood volume, impairing the transportation of oxygen and nutrients to muscles and the heart, ultimately hindering performance. It also diminishes the fluid cushioning between joints, leading to increased wear and tear on ligaments. Proper hydration, including electrolyte replenishment, is crucial for overall performance.
Moreover, water doesn’t just keep the body sharp, but it also helps to maintain cognitive function and reaction time. Dehydration has been shown to negatively impact mental acuity.
Water, Water Everywhere
You may track your macros on a regular basis, but are you making a point to hit your hydration goals? Here are some tips to up your intake.
- Make a habit of drinking water with each meal and snack, particularly in the morning.
- Increase your consumption of water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Choose less processed foods, as they generally have higher water content.
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