Much to my relief, spring is finally here,
so afternoons find me back on my bicycle. Needless to say, I have some
endurance to regain, but a regular training program coupled with smart food
choices will have me back in competitive shape in no time.
While sports nutrition can be complex, there
are a few basic rules to follow which can help you maximize performance, and
these rules apply to nearly every athlete, no matter what your sport of choice.
You probably know that the right
pre-activity meal is important, but what you eat every day can have a bigger
influence on your performance, giving you the competitive edge you want.
Here’s what you should be eating, to make
the most of your workouts:
More than 60% your
daily calories should come from carbohydrates such as oatmeal, pasta, brown
rice and fruit including blueberries and figs. Did you know that three small
figs (dried or fresh) provide 30 grams of good carbohydrates plus B vitamins,
calcium and potassium? Potassium is particularly important to athletes, since
it helps ensure peak muscle function.
water is obviously essential, especially if you’re exercising for an hour or
more, but how much is enough? A good rule of thumb is to drink eight to ten
ounces of water every 15 minutes while exercising. If you’re working out longer
than 90 minutes, drink eight to ten ounces of a sports drink every 15 to 30
minutes. Sports drinks supply both electrolytes and carbohydrates, and your
body will benefit from those when you’re participating in an endurance event.
But, again, you really don’t need a sports drink if your workout is less than
an hour and a half.
it comes to repairing and rebuilding muscle that’s been broken down during
exercise, protein is the answer. Protein also optimizes carbohydrate storage,
so don’t be afraid of good carbs; they’re really your best friend. By including
egg whites, low-fat yogurt, tofu, low-fat milk, lean meat and fish in your
daily diet, you’ll get the 40 to 70 grams of daily protein your body requires.
(The quick way to determine how much protein you need is to multiply 0.8 times
your weight in kg.)
And contrary to popular belief, taking mega
doses of vitamins and minerals won’t improve your performance. But calcium is
critical, since deficiencies can contribute to stress fractures and
osteoporosis. Dairy foods are the best sources of calcium, but fortified foods
like orange juice and dark green vegetables will also add this much-needed
mineral to your diet. The National
Academy of Sciences recommends 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium each day, or the
equivalent of 8 ounces of yogurt, 2 ounces of cheese and 8 ounces of skim
milk. That’s it.
Last, healthy fats should be a part of every
athlete’s diet. Avoid saturated
and trans- fats, and choose mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Adding a little fat
to your diet will help you meet your increased calorie needs and will add
flavor to your training diet.
So, spring into shape! It’s time.