By Beth Nyaga
Top performing athletes know that nutrition is king when it comes to gaining an edge over their competitors.
Nutritional requirements however vary according to age, weight and lifestyle, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that athletes, too, have distinctive nutritional needs.
However, no matter what your goal is carving out your six-pack, increasing your stamina, the gateway to success lies on your plate.
The right foods increase your energy, promote muscle growth and ultimately aid in muscle repair and the wrong ones set you back.
When it comes to chowing down, there are certain eats a serious athlete just won’t touch.
- Diet soda
Here’s the problem with diet soda: it contains tons of artificial sweeteners, which tricks your body into thinking it’s consuming real food. Essentially this means empty calories and high sugar intake aka, not worth the trouble.
Healthy alternatives one could go for instead of the diet soda could include:
Water: We all know that water’s healthy. It helps to flush out toxins and balance the body’s fluids. And, with a lemon slice or cucumber in the mix, it’s a total party. Definitely a go-to drink that helps energize your muscles.
Tea: Tea has antioxidants and can help combat sickness or help you amp up for training. It’s a great way to get energy without drinking a sugary Red Bull.
Carrot Juice: Yes, I know, drinking vegetables is the future. And this juice is pure carrot juice. And I mean straight out of the blender with all the orange pulpy stuff carrot juice. A shot of this stuff energizes you like no other and you’re getting some natural vitamin C, a serving of vegetables and vitamins to improve your eyesight all in one. Just remember to chase it down with a good orange slice afterward.
Fruit Smoothies: Global Scholars Hall is also making up some pretty healthy smoothies too, like this immunity smoothie made with strawberries, mangos, raspberries and a dash of apple juice. Not only are you getting your daily dose of fruits, but you’re also avoiding artificial sugars.
- Sugary cereal
After snacking on some sugary cereal, there’s a spike in insulin which causes your body to store more fat. Obvious truth: the more fat you pack on, the harder it is for your body to burn through its stores to get to that six pack.
- White bread
White bread, unlike whole wheat, lacks fiber. Food is fuel, and fiber plays a part in maintaining your energy levels.
An alternative for this unhealthy snack include:
Veggies: Carrots, bell peppers, celeries, cucumbers! Fresh veggies are a great way to get in your daily dose of nutrients. They’re also crunchy, delicious substitutes for bread. Dip the vegetables in hummus, wrap them around low-fat meats or stuff them in pita bread!
Instant Oatmeal: Just add water or milk, microwave it for a couple of minutes, and you’ve got yourself a hearty snack that will keep you full for a long time.
Fruit Salad: Mix together your favorite seasonal fruits. Put them in a large bowl and refrigerate for a couple hours in order for the natural, sugary juices to mingle and marinate. This way, you can satisfy your sweet tooth without inhaling candy bars.
Regular pasta that you get at the dining hall has the same nutritional value as white bread. It literally isn’t the best thing since sliced bread, with its empty calories. Whole wheat is the way to go.
We all like to relax once in a while, but going out every Friday night is taking a major impact on your body. Alcohol slows down muscle recovery, so on Sunday when you’re trying to get your life together at the gym, you end up hurting your body more.
6: Flavored yogurt
You guessed it; flavoured yogurt is full of sugar which ultimately isn’t good for you. Yogurt is made from milk (lactose), and lactose breaks down into sugars. Depending on the brand you choose and how it was processed, you’re often consuming an unbalanced portion of carbohydrates, which will lead to blood sugar instability.
Athletes should instead choose a full-fat Greek yogurt to ensure the right balance of macronutrients, which helps athletes feel full longer, and keeps their bodies in tune with biological hunger patterns.
7: Sports drinks
All the commercials show a celebrity athlete draining an energy drink after a workout. Unfortunately, it’s more of an excuse to sell a sugary beverage to you, a sport drink can contain up to 35 grams of sugar. Can’t stay away? Give coconut water a try instead.
That crispy, sizzling slice of meat sitting next to your eggs at breakfast is doing you no favors.
We know bacon is beyond delicious, but it has a ton of saturated fat, which can increase your cholesterol and raise your risk of heart disease. Can’t stay away? Try Turkey bacon, Canadian bacon, even a lean sausage will [be better options] per serving.
9: Grain-based desserts
We’re talking about things like cakes, cookies, pastries, those sponge cakes with the crème filling; all the stuff you know is bad, (they’re one of the top sources of added sugar and saturated fat in the diet).
How about an apple cobbler or an oatmeal cookie, NO?
10: Protein Bars and Energy Bars
Protein bars and energy bars are quick, convenient sources of nutrients, but overusing them is discouraged by nutritionists because too much protein in the diet can contribute to bone loss and overtax the kidneys. Many protein bars are also high in saturated fat which can contribute to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Anything packed with high sugar or fat is a no-go. But it’s important to keep in mind that moderation and having the occasional cheat day is key. Be good to your body because it’s what keeps you going through life to accomplish every goal you want to achieve.