Athletes are constantly testing their bodies limits while training as well as during competition. In order to maintain a physique which supports high endurance level workouts, it must be properly fueled with essential nutrients. Athletes require unique and body specific nutritional regimens that are made up of strict guidelines of special foods and the times at which to consume them to ensure maximum athletic success. It is paramount that everyone eat a balanced nutritional diet but for athletes it is non negotiable.
Athletes must eat a well balanced diet every single day, all day, in order to consistently progress in their training and exercise routines. They must supply their bodies with the highest quality foods to properly energize their ever working muscles - beginning with breakfast and ending with a post-dinner snack. When carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are consumed in the correct amounts throughout the day our bodies are encouraged to work at their optimal level. Glycogen, found in carbohydrates, is the main muscle fuel that allows exercise to be possible. Consuming the adequate amount of carbs daily is imperative to train on a regular basis. A well balanced diet should consist of a variety of vegetables and fruits, high quality protein, whole grains, essential fats, and adequate fiber. Athletes may also need to work in higher dosages of iron and B vitamins to keep up their energy levels. Consuming plenty of water is also at the top of an athlete's diet requirements along with proper food consumption.
Pre-workout meals are basically your exercise fuel. Thus, your exercise meal will depend on your specific exercise style. For example, if you tend to workout in the evening then your lunch should consist of fairly easy digestible foods which may include a variety of complex carbohydrates. Pastas, vegetables, fruits, breads, or a salad with minimal protein are sufficient ways to consume your complex carbohydrates. However, if you workout first thing in the morning, then you would likely reap the most benefits from consuming a lighter breakfast of toast, fruit and an egg. In the end it is best to experiment and find out which foods work best for your body but do not forget to drink plenty of water before, during, and after all workouts.
Thirty minutes before performing a workout a small snack should also be consumed. The type of snack consumed will depend upon your workout style and duration (see page Chip-Away Workout). When performing an aerobic workout for more than sixty to ninety minutes a small snack is required, trail mix is perfect. But, if you will be performing a high intensity workout for thirty minutes or more then consuming half of an energy bar, large banana, or a couple of pretzels will suffice. You can get away with eating nothing before shorter workouts but make sure to at least consume a few calories from a ten ounce sports drink. Not to mention at least twelve ounces of water should be consumed one hour prior to your workout.
Water is of paramount importance during your daily workout. To properly hydrate one must consider their workouts duration, endurance level, and also the weather. Basically everyone should consume eight to ten fluid ounces per every fifteen minutes of exercise. Although, if you plan to exercise for more than ninety minutes then you should plan to consume eight to ten fluid ounces of a sports drink per fifteen to thirty minutes of your workout due to carbohydrate depletion. If you workout for over two hours than you need to consume thirty grams of carbs per hour, two and a half hours equals sixty grams of carbs per hour, and any exercise over three hours, one should be consuming ninety grams of carbs per hour.
Post workout hydration is essential for muscle recovery. The basic rule is to drink as much water as you have lost through sweat. In order to figure out this number it is best weigh yourself prior and post exercise - every lb of weight lost equals three cups of water. Another tale sign of dehydration is the color of your urine. If your urine is dark in color then more water must be consumed. Your post workout meal is just as important as your post workout hydration and should be consumed at max within two hours after your workout. This meal is responsible for replenishing your glycogen storage.
Self care is just as important as training hard for an athlete to truly reap all physical benefits. Do not ignore your body's needs! It will let you know what it needs and warn you when it’s had enough. Athletic nutrition is essential for proper physical growth.