Fast Foods – 5 Eating Rules for ELITE Sports Performance
- START YOUR DAY AT THE FUEL PUMP
When you wake up in the morning, your body hasn’t received any nutrients for roughly eight hours. Trying to perform without eating breakfast is like a NASCAR driver trying to win the Daytona 500 on an empty tank—it simply isn’t possible.
An ideal breakfast for an athlete delivers a balance of carbs (your muscles’ preferred fuel source), protein and healthy fats. If you don’t have an early workout, you can go big at breakfast. Opting for something like a veggie omelet accompanied with peanut butter on whole wheat toast, a piece of fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal with berries and nuts, can kick-start your day. But even if you do have a morning training session, you should still eat something. A banana with peanut butter or an apple and string cheese are light snacks that can help your body wake up and give you a boost heading into the gym.
2. TOP OFF THE TANK BEFORE YOUR WORKOUT or GAME
What you eat in the two-hour window before your training can have a huge impact on your performance. Not eating at all is one of the biggest mistakes you can make, because training on a completely empty stomach often results in the wheels coming off in the middle of a workout. But if you chow down on the wrong things, your body will be stuck in park when you need to be in drive.
Fuel up with a snack or small meal one to two hours prior to your workout so your body is primed to perform. Your focus should be on taking in simple, easily digested carbs—which your body uses for fuel. (For examples of simple and complex carbs, see the sidebar “Fueling Field Guide: Simple Vs. Complex Carbohydrates” on page 15.
3. REFILL THE TANK AFTER YOU TRAIN
Your workout isn’t finished when you walk out of the gym or off the track. Training, especially strength training, breaks down the muscles in your body so they can grow stronger and more powerful later. Following an intense workout, the goal is to switch your body into muscle-building mode (called the anabolic state) by consuming nutrients that will help repair muscle fibers, making them thicker and stronger. The ideal way to do this is to eat within a half-hour of the end of your workout. (You definitely don’t want to wait longer than an hour.)
A good post-workout snack provides you with 4 grams of carbohydrates for every gram of protein it delivers. Many post-workout shakes deliver this ratio, making them a convenient way to get the nutrients you need to stimulate muscle growth. Aim to consume 20 grams of protein and 80 grams of carbohydrates following activity.
4. CRUISE WITH CARBS
Carbs are your main source of fuel during exercise. Having too few carbs in your system will leave you feeling like you’re moving under water—slow and plodding instead of fast and explosive. Broadly speaking, carbs come in two forms: simple and complex. Complex carbs, which break down slowly and provide a long-lasting energy supply, typically come from whole plant foods. These carbs are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and confer a huge number of long-term health benefits, including a lowered risk of obesity and disease. Simple carbs tend to be high in sugar but low in nutrients and fiber. Your body digests them faster, so they deliver energy very quickly.
FUELING FIELD GUIDE: SIMPLE VS. COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES Complex carbs take your body longer to break down than simple carbs, which makes them a good choice for long-lasting, sustainable energy with no crashes throughout the day. Simple carbs are a better choice shortly before a workout, when they can give your body a blast of easy energy to help power you through your training session, or immediately after training when they can help quickly refuel your muscles. Eating simple carbs at other times throughout the day isn’t a great idea, however, because they induce fat storage. Opt for simple carbs if you’re within 30 to 60 minutes of a workout and complex carbs throughout the rest of the day.
Complex Carbs include: Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and oats Foods like pasta, breads and cereals in whole grain form. Look for the words “whole wheat flour” to be high on the ingredient list to ensure you’re getting a food high in whole grains. Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn and pumpkin Beans and lentils Green vegetables
Simple Carbs Include: Fruits like bananas, oranges, apples and grapes White bread Fruit jellies or jams Honey Dried fruit Pretzels Crackers
5. POWER UP WITH PROTEIN
Unless you eat enough protein, you won’t build muscle. Without muscle, you’re like a car with no horsepower—you simply won’t have the raw power needed to go fast.
Aim to eat roughly one gram of protein for every pound of body weight per day. For example, if you are a 175-pound athlete, take in about 175 grams of protein throughout the day. How do you know how much protein is in the foods you’re eating? A good guideline is that a palm-sized portion of lean meat contains approximately 30 grams of protein.
When picking your protein, remember that grilled beats fried. Fried foods are laden with more calories and fat, which will slow you down over the long haul. Try to keep your protein clean and simple—for example, opt for a grilled chicken breast over one that’s battered and deep fried.