Did you know that proper nutrition can enhance your athletic performance?
A balanced diet will help keep you healthy – and at peak performance.
The key is choosing a variety of foods rich in these nutrients:
Protein gives you the energy you need to rebuild small muscle tears that occur
during sports and exercise. You should consume about 1.2 – 1.7 grams
of protein per 2.2 pounds of your body weight per day to stay healthy
and achieve optimal performance.
Iron helps carry oxygen from your lungs to your working muscles, which can
help boost your performance. Make sure you eat foods with higher levels
of iron, including beans, whole and enriched grains, dark green leafy
vegetables, dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
Carbohydrates are the most efficient fuel source. During sports and exercise, energy
from carbohydrate sources – like pasta, rice, vegetables, fruits
and grains – is released in your working muscle groups three times
faster than energy from fat sources. This boosts your energy availability,
which helps optimize performance. Starting athletic activity with stored
energy from previous carbohydrate-rich meals can also help prevent fatigue.
Calcium is the primary nutrient that enhances bone health and muscle function.
Athletes, especially female athletes, with low dietary calcium may have
increased risk of bone and stress fractures. You can easily get calcium
from foods like fortified soy or rice milk, fortified fruit juice, broccoli,
kale, cheese, yogurt, almonds and carrots.
Vitamin D is required for your body to properly absorb calcium – and it’s
needed for a healthy immune system. You should consume about 1,000 IU
of vitamin D-rich and vitamin D-fortified foods like fortified milk, yogurt,
eggs, soy products and fatty fish. Spending about 20 minutes outside every
day can also help boost your vitamin D levels. A vitamin D supplement
may be needed if your blood level is low, and especially during winter,
when sun exposure is at a minimum.
Sample Meal Options
Here are some easy-to-prepare, 3,000-calorie meal options that include
vital nutrients and minerals like protein, iron, carbohydrates, calcium
and vitamin D.
Breakfast: Two pancakes with 2 teaspoons margarine and ¼ cup syrup; 1 cup
orange juice; 1 cup skim milk
Lunch: Two slices of thick-crust cheese pizza; 1 cup watermelon; 12 ounces lemonade
Afternoon snack: Four peanut butter crackers; one banana; 1 cup skim milk
Dinner: Grilled chicken breast with ½ cup steamed vegetables and ½
cup pasta; one whole-wheat roll; 1 cup strawberries; 1 cup skim milk
Evening snack: 1 cup frozen yogurt
Breakfast: 1 cup oatmeal; one banana; one slice whole-wheat toast with jelly; 1 cup
grapefruit juice; 1 cup skim milk
Lunch: Sliced ham sandwich on whole-wheat bread with one slice Swiss cheese, lettuce
and tomato; two cookies; 1 cup apple juice; 1 cup skim milk
- Afternoon snack: 3 cups microwaved popcorn, no salt; 1 cup juice
Dinner: Baked potato with ½ cup veggie or beef chili and 1 ounce cheese;
green lettuce salad with carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms and dressing
of choice; ½ cup cottage cheese; 1 cup skim milk
Evening snack: Ice cream sundae with 1 cup low-fat ice cream, chocolate sauce, chopped
nuts and strawberries
Breakfast: Half sesame seed bagel with cream cheese; 1 cup cooked oatmeal; ½
cup peaches; 1 cup skim milk
Lunch: Roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lettuce and light mayo;
1½ cups fresh fruit salad with apples, bananas, grapes, oranges
and pears; 6 ounces low-fat yogurt; 1 cup apple juice
Afternoon snack: ¼ cup pretzels; 1 cup calcium-fortified orange juice
Dinner: Large grilled chicken salad with loose-leaf lettuce, garbanzo beans, shredded
carrots, red peppers and light dressing of choice; one wheat dinner roll
with margarine; 1 cup skim milk
Evening snack: ¼ cup crackers and peanut butter
Breakfast: ¾ cup whole-grain cereal with 1 cup skim milk; ½ cinnamon-and-raisin
bagel with peanut butter; 1 cup fruit of choice
Lunch: One wheat tortilla with ¾ cup refried beans, ½ cup rice,
1 ounce cheese, lettuce and chopped tomatoes; large apple; 1 cup skim milk
Afternoon snack: One granola bar; 6 ounces fruit juice of choice
Dinner: 3 ounces broiled lean pork chops; ½ baked potato with margarine;
½ cup mashed squash; ½ cup steamed green beans; 1 cup skim milk
Evening snack: One frozen fruit bar
To reduce or increase the number of calories you consume, you can decrease
or increase the serving sizes. You can also incorporate a morning snack
into your diet to increase your caloric intake.
Here are some options for morning snacks (with approximate calorie values):
- 1 cup granola (500 calories)
- 1 cup fruit yogurt (250 calories)
- ¼ cup raisins (120 calories)
- One bowl lentil soup (250 calories)
- One large banana (130 calories)
- Two oatmeal cookies (150 calories)
- 16 ounces skim milk (200 calories)
- One medium muffin (300 calories)
Hydration, Dehydration and Your Performance
Like a well-balanced diet, proper hydration before, during and after sports
or exercise can improve your performance. Water regulates your body temperature,
lubricates your joints and helps transport nutrients for enhanced energy,
health and well-being.
Staying hydrated can:
- Increase your energy level
- Sharpen your alertness and critical-thinking skills
- Reduce your likelihood of developing muscle cramps
- Improve your cardiovascular (heart) function
- Help you maintain a cooler body temperature
Dehydration occurs when your fluid loss is greater than your fluid intake.
When your body doesn’t have enough water, it can’t work properly,
and your athletic performance can suffer. Even a fluid loss equal to 2
percent of your body weight can cause a decrease in your performance.
Signs of dehydration can include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth
- Decrease in sweating
- Heart palpitations
To avoid dehydration, you should:
- Drink 12 to 22 ounces of water one to two hours before you begin sports
- Drink 10 ounces of water 10 to 20 minutes before you begin sports or exercise
- Drink 4 to 6 ounces of water every 15 minutes during sports or exercise
- Drink 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of weight lost after sports
Although water is the best drink for most athletes, most of the time, sports
drinks can also be helpful. However, you should only consume sports drinks
if you’re participating in high-intensity sports or exercise for
60 minutes or more. You should also choose your sports drinks wisely.
Drink only those with 60 to 100 calories per 8 fluid ounces, and avoid
drinks that are high in sugar and sodium.
Nutrition and Hydration on Game Day
It’s important to eat well every day, regardless of whether you have
a game, meet or other sporting event. But proper nutrition on game day
can further enhance your athletic performance.
You should be aware of three significant changes in your nutritional needs
for game day:
Nutrition starts the day before. When it comes to sports nutrition, hydration and carbohydrates are the
two most important factors that affect your performance. Your body has
a limited capacity for both of them and is constantly losing both throughout
the day. It’s important you consume plenty of water and foods rich
in carbohydrates before you go to bed the night before.
Calorie consumption is different. If you need 3,000 calories, then you need 3,000 the day of the competition.
However, it doesn’t help to consume most of your daily calories
after an event. You should eat every two to four hours throughout the
day, consuming about two-thirds of your calories three to four hours before
Fuel mixture is different. On game day, you should get most of your calories from carbohydrates and
liquids — especially before and during the event — as opposed
to proteins and fats.
Here’s a sample nutrition and hydration plan for game day:
Three to four hours before: Drink about 17 to 20 ounces of water, and eat your largest meal. Remember,
this meal should be rich in carbohydrates and lean protein, and low in
fiber and fat.
One to two hours before: Drink about 12 to 22 ounces of water. Eat a snack rich in carbohydrates.
10 to 20 minutes before: Drink 10 ounces of water.
- Eat a light snack like a granola bar, energy bar or dry whole grain cereal.
Consume 4 to 6 ounces of water every 15 minutes.
30 minutes after: Eat a carbohydrate-rich snack, and drink a sufficient amount of water
or energy drink low in calories and sugar.
Two hours after: Eat a smaller meal (less than one-third of your daily caloric intake)
rich in carbohydrates, lean protein and heart-healthy fats. Continue to
drink water or an energy beverage low in calories and sugar.
Remember that although proper nutrition on game day is vital to successful
athletic performance, it’s only helpful if you're eating well
throughout the week. Don’t wait for the pre-game meal to consume
the nutrients, minerals and fluids you think you need. If you approach
your nutrition with the same discipline as your training, you’ll
maximize your potential.
For more information, or to schedule a sports nutrition consultation, call