It goes without saying that everyone should strive to eat a healthy diet and look after his or her body. But, for sports athletes, this is absolutely essential. There is no way that anyone can expect to do well in their chosen sport without paying close attention to their diet.
These dietary rules are important at all levels of sports though. Whether you are playing soccer in the park or featuring on sports betting sites when a World Cup comes around, what you put into your body has to be closely monitored. Talent will take you so far – but a good diet could be the difference you need.
Here are some tips on how to eat like an athlete – whatever level you may be at.
Essential Food Groups
The right kind of nutrition is very important for athletes. The unique stress that exercise and sports put on an athlete’s body means that the dietary intake has to be exact. You should focus on the five main food groups and then you can work out an individually fine-tuned diet.
The five main food groups are fruit, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy. Those first two are vitally important and should be making up around half of every single meal. They will help to provide energy, as well as helping your body recover or even prevent injuries.
Proteins will provide the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce for itself. This can be sourced from foods like chicken and fish and will help with things like muscle maintenance. If you are looking at fruit and vegetables to take up 50% of your plate, then another 25% should be proteins.
Whole grains are a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber. They are very good for supporting activity and for recovery. That’s why it is a good idea to take on board grains prior to exercise. Dairy is essential for muscle recovery and bone strength and can be found in milk, yogurt and cheese.
As much as any athlete needs to ensure that they are eating the right kinds of food, keeping hydrated is essential too. Water is obviously key to all life and keeping the levels topped up is vitally important for any athlete. The amount of water taken in should increase depending on the amount of exercise completed.
Exercise raises the temperature of the body and our bodies compensate for that by cooling down by sweating. Unfortunately, this results in losing water and salts through the skin. So taking in water to keep hydrated is needed. Any athlete should drink water before, during, and after exercise.
Game Day Diets
Up until now we have largely been concentrating on what athletes should eat to maintain a healthy diet in general. But there are other factors to consider when it comes to game day. This is when you can give your body a special boost to help with the extra exercise it will experience.
It should be said that athletes should not suddenly change to a game day diet without leading up for days or weeks before. There shouldn’t be any change of direction when it comes to what is being eaten – although smaller portions are probably a good idea.
Removing fats and dairy products as an event gets closer is a good idea, energy-packed foods are very important. As there will also probably be some kind of travel included on game day, you should think about how this kind of energy food can be translated into a snack. Grain crackers are a perfect example of what can be easily transported
Figure 2 Fruits and vegetables are essential
You will have seen countless adverts – usually fronted by successful sportsmen and women – extolling the advantage to be gained by taking on supplements of some kind. We would recommend that athletes follow a food-first policy using the information we have provided here as a guide.
Professional athletes may take supplements to help with their performance but nutrition experts who are working on individual regimes will provide these. Blindly adding supplements to your diet without getting expert opinion is not recommended and may even do more damage than good.
Stay Healthy to Succeed
Every top athlete will need to follow exercise and dietary programs to reach the levels they wish to attain. This comes on top of the natural talent that has put them in the position to succeed. You may not be able to reach the same kinds of levels as World Cup winners or Olympic gold medal winners, but by following our advice you can give yourself the best chance of reaching a good level.
But even if you only ever play sports for fun, you will feel better and healthier by eating this way – and making sure you are keeping well hydrated.