3 ways to improve athletic performance by changing what you eat
You might not think about nutrition when it comes to working out or fitness training, but what you eat before training can make a big difference in energy, stamina, and motivation. Lisa Money, RDN, offered some tips on how to improve athletic performance by changing what you eat beforehand.
Fuel up before you exercise
“Think of it this way,” Money said. “If you don’t have the right type of gasoline, or you don’t have enough gas in your car, you’re not getting anywhere. It’s the same with nutrition. If you’re not eating enough or not eating the right types of foods, you’re setting yourself up for a more difficult workout than if you had fueled up properly. So, you really want to make sure you include enough of the right kinds of food groups three to four hours before a workout.”
What can you eat to improve sports performance?
Money offered three ways you can improve your athletic performance by changing what you eat (or drink).
Start things off right with a balanced breakfast
While you are sleeping at night, your body goes through a “digest and rest” period. When you wake up, there is no food left in your system, so it’s important to put back into your system what your body used overnight.
Make sure you eat within 60 minutes of waking up. Include a balanced plate of whole grains, protein or dairy, healthy fats (from plant sources) and fruits or vegetables. A solid start to your day can help reduce overall rates of exercise-induced muscle soreness or inflammation.
Here are some breakfast options:
- Overnight oats. Put a scoop of rolled oats or old-fashioned oats into a bowl with a little bit of milk. Add toppings such as peanut butter, nuts, coconut or dried fruit. Mix it together and put it in the fridge before you go to bed. Enjoy cold or warmed up.
- Microwaved egg sandwich. Spray a bowl with some olive oil, scramble an egg in it, then pop it in the microwave for 45 to 60 seconds. Once the egg is cooked, put it on a whole wheat English muffin with tomato, slice of cheese and baby spinach.
- Oatmeal pancakes. Mix some old-fashioned oats or quick oats in a bowl with one egg or two egg whites. Mix in some cinnamon and cook in a pan like a pancake. Top with natural peanut butter or maple syrup and you have a good combination of whole grains, protein and healthy fat.
Hydration is key to improved fitness
“Water makes up over 70% of the human body and impacts every bodily process. If you lose 2% of your body weight because of dehydration, it causes 20% loss in performance,” Money said.
It’s important to consume at least half of your body weight in ounces of non-caffeinated fluid per day. Water is the best choice, but other options include sports drinks, fruit juice, milk, and decaffeinated tea and coffee.
If you are working out for longer than 90 minutes, it’s good to drink a sports drink during training to replace electrolytes that are lost in sweat. This will lower the chance of muscle cramps, muscle strain, and poor recovery.
Pre- and post-workout snacks are important, too
A snack with quick-digesting carbohydrates 30–45 minutes before a workout provides a boost of energy to help improve your athletic performance. This can include fruit, a granola bar or sports bar. Include more carbohydrate-rich foods if there is more time before your workout and include a little bit of protein such as a tablespoon of peanut butter, milk or turkey.
For healthy after-workout snacks, try including 15–20 grams of protein, like 6 ounces of Greek yogurt or 3 ounces of lean meat like chicken, fish or pork tenderloin.
When you take the time to pick the right fuel before, during and after workouts, you’ll reap the reward of having fun, motivating and rigorous exercise, while also working to improve your athletic performance by keeping your body nourished and fueled for fitness.
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