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How to Eat Like an Athlete

Get the most out of your workouts, by fueling your body right.

Getting your diet on track will help you excel in sports in no time, and significantly improve your workouts. The trick is to get the right balance or protein, carbs, and fat — and eat at regular mealtimes. Using sample menus will help you stick to your plan.

Protein Recommendations

Athletes need extra protein to help their bodies recover after workouts, build muscle mass, and burn excess body fat. A 2014 issue of Today’s Dietitian recommends athletes get 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.5 to 1 gram per pound of body weight) each day. Choose from the following protein-rich foods:

  • Lean meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, reduced-fat cheese, and cottage cheese
  • Soy products (tofu, tempeh, and veggie burgers)
  • Legumes (dried beans and peas), nuts, and seeds

Carbohydrates Requirements

In general and especially for athletes, carbohydrates are a must to sustain energy and maximize performance. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests athletes consume 2.3 to 5.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight daily, depending on workout duration and intensity, for optimum results. Choose from the following healthy carb-rich options:

  • Whole grains (whole grain breads, cereals, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, couscous, and whole-grain pasta)
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes (dried beans and peas), nuts, and seeds
  • Milk and yogurt

Dietary Fat Suggestions

If you’re an athlete, keep fat intake below 30 percent of your total calories, suggests the American College of Sports Medicine. Fat provides 9 calories per gram. So, if you’re eating 2,500 calories per day aim for less than 83 grams of total fat daily. Choose from the following healthy fats:

  • Plant-based oils
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Olives
  • Fatty fish and fish oils

Sample Menu

Using meal plans and menus can help you stick with your sports nutrition diet. The following is a sample healthy menu for athletes (calorie needs and portion sizes vary based on age, gender, and activity level):

Breakfast

  • Omelet made with black beans, peppers, and feta cheese
  • Banana
  • Whole-grain toast topped with tub butter mixed with a plant-based oil

Snack

  • Greek yogurt
  • Strawberries, blueberries, or cherries
  • Pumpkin seeds

Lunch

  • Grilled chicken
  • Cooked quinoa prepared with olive oil
  • Asparagus

Snack

  • Cottage cheese
  • Hummus with pita bread
  • Apple

Dinner

  • Grilled salmon
  • Cooked brown prepared with olive oil
  • Mixture of broccoli and cauliflower

Snack

  • Popcorn
  • Protein-fortified almond milk or protein powder shake

Bottom Line

Give yourself a sports performance edge — and improve the way you look and feel — by fueling your body with the right balance of healthy proteins, carbs, and fat.

[Image via Getty]

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