Optimal sports performance results from following a well-balanced diet every day to ensure you are getting proper amounts of macro and micronutrients. Timing of meals and fluids are also very important. Your plan will guide you when and how to make these tweaks to help you reach surpass your goals. The four basic components are:
Hydration. Water is the most important nutrient for athletes. You should drink at least two quarts (64 oz.) of water each day, and even more before, during, and after a competition or exercise. Sports drinks deliver electrolytes and are generally advised for exercise lasting longer than 1 hour. Your plan will recommend what’s best for you.
Carbohydrates. Aim to get 60% to 70% of calories from carbohydrates, as this is your body’s most important source of fuel. Carbohydrates can be found in foods such as:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Healthy bread like whole wheat
- Healthy cereal like oatmeal
Your body turns carbohydrates into energy (glucose) or stores it in your liver and muscle tissues (glycogen), giving you endurance and power for high-intensity, short-duration activities.
Proteins. You should get 12% to 15% of your daily calories from foods like:
- Lean red meat, fish and poultry
- Beans and legumes
- Low-fat dairy
Your body turns dietary protein into amino acids that enable your body to build new tissues and fluids.
Fats. Aim to get 20% to 30% of calories from fat. Focus on consumption of unsaturated fats (found in plant foods such avocados, nuts, seeds, and oils). Minimize intake of saturated fats (found in animal-based foods such as meats, eggs, butter, and dairy).
Include Omega-3 fats as much as possible, as these can help to reduce inflammation. Good sources of Omega-3 fats include fatty fish (tuna, trout, halibut and salmon), flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Your body uses fat for energy depending on the intensity and duration of exercise. Too much fat can be unhealthy, so it’s important to stick to your plan.