Nutrition for Athletes: What to Eat and When

Nutrition is a tricky subject, as it’s the one place where we often have too much freedom when it comes to exercise. Is there anything we can do to combat this? Yes, here are some tips for athletes and those who work out regularly on what to eat and when.

Nutrition One of the big problems with nutrition for athletes is that they’re often told by their coaches what they should eat, but as long as they’re eating enough in general, it’s difficult to know exactly what they should be getting from each meal or snack. So that means that most of these specifics are up for personal interpretation.

Here are some guidelines from a sports nutrition blog, however, that can be helpful. First, eat balanced meals. I’ve found that the best ones for athletes are about 5-6 small meals a day with each one having at least 4-5 different ingredients. For example, a meal for me might have some sort of protein bar or shake as a snack in the morning, something like eggs with vegetables and oils with it in the morning, chicken breast and rice at lunch time (I’m not a fan of pasta because often I can only find it with pasta sauce), vegetables and dip if I’m at home or on the go (like hummus), chicken and veggies with rice if I’m on the road, etc. Even if you’re not an athlete, this is a good method of eating. Remember that each meal should have at least one major protein source, some complex carbs (and avoid simple carbs like pasta), and a healthy fat.

Snack wise, I find that something along the lines of almonds and dried fruit is a good mix because it has both protein and complex carbs modulated by fiber. I also find that whey protein shakes are good because they’re easily portable and convenient. As for non-meal times, I like to have a piece of fruit, some sort of nuts (almonds or cashews) and a protein bar. I also eat yogurt at those times, but again, stick to the same simple carbohydrates each time.

Here are some general tips for those looking to become more nutrition-aware:

Some protein shakes are very high in fat content and others have little or no fat. Always make sure that you get at least 10 grams of protein from each shake. If you’re eating one a day, this is easy enough to do since it’s only about 100 calories. For two or more, I use hemp protein powder mixed with some fruit juice. I put a tablespoon of the powder per drink and then mix in enough juice to make it thick and slightly frothy. If you’ve got a blender bottle, it works great. If not, I’ve found that mixing it by hand works fine as well (just add ice cubes).

In addition, I also drink a lot of water during the day. Sometimes this means spending a little more time in a bathroom stall, but the health benefits far outweigh the time spent.

Finally, I think that it’s also important to eat some fruit in the early morning. Apples are great (and filling) and bananas are easy to take with you as well. I find that they’re good as just a snack or mixed with some yogurt as well. The added sugar isn’t bad either since your body uses it best when you work out first thing in the morning so having some fruit juice before your workout is actually better than having a cup of coffee (or even an energy drink).