How to eat like an athlete
Athlete’s monitor many aspects of their life, looking after their body to maximise their performance; sleep, heart rate, mood and food. Looking at ourselves these aspects are also important to our health and performance. Even if we are not considered elite athletes we can incorporate this positive way of eating, after all who doesn’t want to feel and perform at their best?
Eating for performance shouldn’t mean dieting. An athlete needs to be positive and think about what to eat to fuel themselves rather than focusing on the what not so much. No one likes to feel deprived so skip the dieting food rules and ask yourself, have you had your fruit, nuts, protein foods etc. for the day. Once you have included all these, there won’t be much room left for the less nutritious foods anyway.
Your food intake should be suited to you, meeting your physical activity and health requirements. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to everyone else.
Eating with awareness
Know what you eat. Sometimes we have a picture in our mind of how we would like to eat but when we look a little closer it isn’t what is happening e.g. take away is thrown in more than we realise, a few extra alcoholic drinks, ran out of vegetables, skipped lunch and raided the biscuit tin again. You don’t need to be obsessed however have an understanding of your routine and habits.
Take some notice of how hungry or full you are before and after eating. On hungry days it is ok to have more and other days less. We don’t need to eat like a robot. Athlete’s will increase and decrease their intakes depending on training loads and types of training they have on. It is important they don’t fall into the trap of overeating, particularly if ravenously hungry, as it can make them feel tired and sluggish. That is important for us too. We can always go back for more later if hungry, check your ‘fullness gauge’.
Planning is key. Mapping out at least some of the evening meals and writing a shopping list will help with having a stock of nourishing food readily available to prepare. Think about your training or day ahead, what snacks might be needed, meals that need preparing in advance. Don’t leave it to chance.
An athlete would think about what they will eat before and after training or competition and have this ready to go. A Rokeby breakfast smoothie could be a simple post training snack. You might not exercise at all, however you can still have planned and packed your lunch and snacks to ensure you are nourished during the day. A Rokeby quark yoghurt makes a great calcium and protein rick snack. For example, it is important for us all to have a protein supply throughout the day to maximise maintenance of muscle mass.
If you are exercising in the morning planning breakfast for recovery is important. Including quality wholegrain carbohydrate such as rolled oats or wholegrain bread and a protein source such as eggs, Rokeby Farms Probiotic, baked beans or cheese, healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds or extra virgin olive oil and some vegetables or fruit are important. Depending on your energy levels and goals for exercise you can increase or decrease quantities of each of these foods. A very heavy training session may require you to eat before the exercise session also.
Planning helps make the healthy choices the easy choices. If the nourishing food is there ready you are more likely to eat.
A key area for athletes and all of us is being well hydrated. We can forget to drink enough water when sitting in an office all day, and environments such as air-conditioning are very dehydrating. Have water accessible, without going overboard. You can use thirst as a guide and it is certainly time to have a drink when you are thirsty. Aiming for your urine to be the colour of pale straw is a reasonable guide also. Athlete’s will look at a variety of fluids to drink replacing electrolytes and for some carbohydrate as well. For most of us doing moderate intensity exercise for less than 90 minutes water will suffice.
Start off with these tips and you can fine tune as you go along. You may be a weekend fun runner, triathlete, cricketer, swimmer, gym goer, golfer, lawn bowler, cyclist or wanting to start your journey. We can all be athlete’s in our own right. It is a positive way of looking at your diet and health. Elite athlete’s look after their bodies to have them perform at their best, so why shouldn’t we do that too.