For Olympic athletes training for a gold medal, it is more than just hours spent practicing their sport. Ask any Olympian and they’ll tell you that nutrition is also a major component of their training plan. Improper fueling during training and competition can mean the difference between first and second place, so following a sound nutrition plan is essential for optimal performance and recovery. While you may not be training up to 6 hours a day, 6 days per week, eating like an Olympian can certainly help you to achieve your performance goals. Here are key points to develop your nutrition plan.
Eat Breakfast Daily
Breakfast is often thought of as the most important meal of the day. Research suggests that eating a healthy breakfast can help improve your concentration and performance as well as provide you with the energy you need to engage in physical activity.
Healthful breakfast choices might include: eggs or egg whites, low-fat dairy products, fruit, and whole grains (e.g. oatmeal, whole-grain cereals, & whole wheat bread).
Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals
Eating regularly can help prevent fatigue and reduce injury risk. Planning ahead is important especially on your busiest days. Be sure to keep some healthy snacks on hand to avoid going long periods without eating.
Examples are Greek yogurt and berries, banana with peanut butter, whole grain granola bars, trail mix, and string cheese.
Just like food, fluids are vital for peak performance. Be sure to carry a water bottle with you throughout the day as a reminder to hydrate.
Choose Whole Foods when Possible
Whole foods contain a variety of nutrients that are required by the body. While sports bars and other nutrition supplements may seem like a convenient option, whole foods are typically more nutrient rich.
Try making homemade granola bars made with rolled oats, nut butter, dried fruit, and honey as a healthier alternative to your typical prepackaged sports bar. Here's a recipe to help get you started.
Practice your Nutrition Plan During Training
Get the bugs worked out of your nutrition plan during training so that when race day arrives you are confident that you won’t run into any problems (i.e. GI distress).
The last thing to consider is your recovery nutrition.
When thinking about your recovery, remember the 3 R’s – rehydrate, replenish, and repair. After training or competition you will need to rehydrate with fluids, replenish the fuel stores you’ve utilized, and repair damaged muscle. Four components of a good recovery meal/snack include: carbohydrates, protein, fluids, and electrolytes. Making sure you are eating a well-balanced meal post-exercise will help to minimize recovery time, prevent fatigue and injury, as well as prepare you for your next training bout or competition.