As a sports enthusiast, you need to bank on your physical health to have a healthy and active lifestyle. You depend on endurance, skill, and strength when you’re running with the ball or making a sprint to the finish line.
Just like working out is essential for optimal athletic performance, so is fueling your body with proper nutrients through a balanced diet. As you exert more energy through training, exercise, and playing a sport, you need to replenish burnt calories and lost nutrients, which can be quickly done by eating the right foods.
Every person has different nutritional needs, but athletes are expected to nourish themselves with the following nutrients more to keep their bodies performing optimally:
Six essential nutrients for athletes
- Iron – This nutrient is essential for the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Iron also can transport oxygen throughout the body. Lack of iron may inhibit endurance and decrease immunity.
- Zinc – This mineral plays a significant role in immunity, thyroid function, protein utilization, and metabolic efficiency, all of which affect athletic performance in a way. Those who are highly at risk of zinc deficiency are vegetarians.
- Calcium – This essential nutrient aids in nerve impulses, muscle contraction, bone growth, and improving bone mass. Calcium deficiency may lead to bone-related problems, which is why it should be taken daily by people who engage in strenuous activities daily.
- Vitamin D – Calcium needs vitamin D to boost its absorption in the gut. Together, they build stronger bones. Vitamin D also plays a massive role in boosting the immune system. This vitamin can be easily acquired by basking in the sunlight in the morning for a few minutes.
- Magnesium – This mineral is vital in more than 300 biochemical processes, including protein synthesis for muscle building, calcium absorption, blood pressure regulation, and ATP production, all of which contribute to a sports enthusiast’s performance.
- B Vitamins – B vitamins play a huge role in blood health, energy metabolism, and muscle tissue health. Poor intake of B vitamins may result in muscle soreness and fatigue, both of which can jeopardize your athletic performance.
What should be on an athlete’s plate?
It doesn’t matter if you like hitting golf balls on the golf course or completing laps on a pool—as a sports enthusiast, you should eat more of the foods listed below:
Pasta, rice, and oatmeal
Carbohydrate-loaded foods have a terrible reputation since many people associate them with weight gain. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be bad if foods are chosen wisely. Carbs are the body’s fuel, and the more fuel you put in, the more active you will be.
There are two key types of carbohydrates: fast- and slow-release. Opt for slow-release carbs throughout the day and fast-release an hour before training. Slow releasing carbohydrates include pasta, brown rice, whole grain bread, sweet potato, and quinoa. Fast digesting carbohydrates include white rice, bananas, and crackers.
Before grabbing your golf clubs and going out to the course, eat a hearty bowl of oatmeal to gear up your body for long strides. A 2016 study shows that consuming 70 grams of whole grains like oatmeal reduces the risk of premature death by 22%.
Red meat is arguably a rich source of high-quality protein, iron, and zinc, all of which are essential for good health and optimal athletic performance. Red meat also contains amino acids that help repair minor muscle tears that happen after extensive training. Eating protein-rich foods is essential for the recovery of cells and muscles, so make sure to prioritize this in your diet.
Make it a goal to make 1/3 of your meals based around protein-rich sources, including chicken, tofu, legumes, cottage cheese, nuts, and eggs.
Fruits & vegetables
Just like a car needs fuel to function, your body requires vitamins and minerals to perform at its best too. Since your body can’t naturally produce all essential vitamins and minerals, a well-balanced diet is necessary to achieve optimal health and performance.
To achieve this, allot 1/3 of your meals to fruits or vegetables to ensure you’re getting appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals. Eating raw fruits, soups, roasted or steamed vegetables, smoothies, or salads can help you reach your recommended intake.
Fish are rich in protein and healthy fats, which are essential for both physical and mental health. Healthy fats are found in oily fish (mackerel, herring, and salmon) as well as seeds, avocados, and nuts. Keep in mind that consuming too many fatty foods can lead to weight gain, so portion control is essential.
Staying hydrated is just as important as eating a balanced diet. While working out, your body loses fluid as you sweat. And as you exert more time doing physical activities, you become thirsty. Don’t make it a habit to drink only if you feel thirsty. Drink at least every 15 to 20 minutes, but don’t hydrate so much that you’ll start feeling full. During your workouts and playtime, always bring a DYLN Bottle with you so you can hydrate more efficiently anytime, anywhere.
As an athlete, there’s always food to avoid everywhere you go—sugars, fatty foods, fried stuff, junk food, etc. While eating right helps you gain better health and athletic performance, it’s also important to splurge on your favorite “less-healthy” foods from time to time, whether that’s an ice cream cone or your favorite cheeseburger.
Cheat meals usually do not impact your fitness goals, provided that you indulge in moderation. Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Datta via NDTV Food explains, “We are good eighty percent of the time, and for a good 20 percent, we like to put the guards down. Eating burgers, pizza, [and pasta give] us that kind of satisfaction. In moderation, even these indulgences don’t harm.”
Make sure you plan your cheat meals better, don’t go on a binge spree when you’re famished, and make up for what you eat.
All of our bodies need fuel to function, but when it comes to sports enthusiasts, the need for nutrition is higher and more demanding. Regular exercise, training, and sports performance increase the loss of nutrients and energy from the body, so more vitamins and minerals are needed to consume to make up for the loss.
Whether you’re a hobbyist or competitive athlete, make sure your body gets the proper nutrients before you embark on a high-intensity activity.