What you eat will impact how you perform, there’s no way around it. But, the good news is that even for an athlete-in-training you don’t need to feel constrained to a particular diet. Rather than use the word diet at all, let’s instead go with: foods you’re fueling your performance with.
The nutritional requirements for an athlete are different from sedentary folk. Clearly athletes need more energy, so they will require more food and calories, but a calorie shouldn’t be looked at as merely a calorie because the source of that calorie is equally important. For example, calories from your gas station’s donut aren’t nearly as nutritious as those from a sweet potato.
With balance, moderation and smart food selections an athlete can navigate their way to a healthy plate of fuel while still living in the real world and enjoying what they eat. Ensure you’re eating enough of the right foods, but allow yourself enough of the less nutrient fulfilling treats so you don’t feel deprived.
Fulfilling your nutrient needs not only includes calories, the macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and fats, but also the vitamins and minerals included. Taken as a whole the foods that fuel your performance don’t need to be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but rather the quantity you’re eating them in and how often. A few slices of pizza on a Friday night isn’t going to negate the whole grains, lean proteins and vegetable dinners and snacks that comprise the rest of the week.
This should feel liberating for an athlete, the power of choice is always in your hands. With a few quick swaps and selective ordering, you’d also be amazed just how much healthier a meal can become in any restaurant or dining situation. Even if you’re already eating highly nutritious, you may be surprised to learn that the healthy meals you’re already eating can be made even better with a quick swap.
Read on to learn eight ways you can kick your athlete’s plate up a notch and make it even better for fueling your performance. Making even a few swaps will greatly increase the nutrient density of your meals, especially in regards to those crucial vitamins and minerals.
Potatoes to Sweet Potatoes
Potatoes are a carbohydrate friend to the active athlete; be sure you’re always eating that skin too, because that is where the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals are. Opt for sweet potatoes and you’ll not only be getting the carbs and fiber of the traditional potatoes, but more vitamin C, folate and drastically more vitamin A, which helps boost the immune system.
Yogurt to Greek Yogurt
Yogurt offers a healthy dose of calcium, paired with fruits this is an excellent snack. But you can kick that yogurt up by simply swapping up for Greek Yogurt, which will also supply you with much more protein than the traditional variety.