The eating habits necessary for success.
By Karen Tenelli | Edited by Brian Levine and Christie Bacchioni
Whether you’re trying out for the NFL roster, working on getting a college scholarship or just trying to look and perform your best, proper sports nutrition is key to reaching your athletic goals. When you plan your workout, you should think about what you’re going to consume before, during, and after in order to keep your muscles stoked.
Here we break down the essential sports nutrition and eating habits necessary for success.
Get powered pre-workout
If you exercise intensely, starting your gym routine without nutritional support is just like failing to warm up first—you’re asking for trouble.
Be sure to incorporate the following nutrients into your pre-workout meal:
- Electrolytes: Getting the maximum benefit from your efforts require electrolytes. This substance helps your body maintain proper fluid balance and helps your muscles (including the most important muscle, your heart) function properly.
- Protein: Taking in the right mix of the amino acids is another way to support superior hydration. Protein helps build muscles while assisting in blood sugar regulation, nervous system function and red blood cell maintenance (a key to getting oxygen to hard-working muscles).
- Caffeine: A pre-workout product should help kick-start energy production so you can squeeze out that last mile on the treadmill or extra rep on the bench. In studies, caffeine has been found to increase endurance and raise the rate in which fat is burned.
- Carbohydrates: These are crucial because they help the body create more glycogen, the form in which the body stores energy-fueling glucose inside the muscles.
Speed up recovery post-workout
Time to head out of the gym after working up a good sweat—whew! But first you need a meal break to give your muscles what they need to grow.
Take it from Cole Farrand, 24, a professional football player for the New York Giants. He admits that sports nutrition wasn’t always something he focused on. But when he did reshape his diet, he found great results. “My recovery was faster, I wasn’t sore even though I’m working hard. When you give your body the fuel it needs the recovery is better, you’re getting better muscle growth.”
One nutrient that is crucial to a faster recovery (and less soreness) is Leucine, one of the Branched Chain Amino Acids. To get the greatest benefit of BCAAs after a workout, have a shake with a 12:1:1 ratio.
Get sports nutrition out of every meal
Breakfast is just one part of a smart dietary strategy. It should combine nutrient-dense foods, adequate hydration and all-natural supplements to help you maintain energy and focus while building muscle and reducing recovery time.
Farrand always places a big importance on the first meal of the day. When it comes to breakfast, “I usually have natural peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat,” says Farrand. “If I wake up late and forget breakfast I don’t have the energy I need.”
Also, don’t forget to eat something midday. Lunch helps re-energize you after morning workouts or gets you ready for afternoon and evening workouts. If finding the time is a problem, try cooking enough food at dinner to have leftovers for lunch the next day.
For dinner, go light. “I will have some whole wheat pasta and chicken…and a protein shake before I go to bed,” says Farrand.
Kevin Dunn, CSCS, owner and CEO of TEST Sports Clubs in Bridgewater, New Jersey (testsportsclubs.com), says that a shake made with micellar casein, one of the slowest-absorbing proteins available, “is almost like having an IV drip of protein released throughout the evening.”
Maintain your athletic performance
Besides putting in the time and effort, giving your body the fuel it craves is the only way to sustain peak athletic performance. As Farrand says, “If you want to be in top physical shape you’re going to have to be aware of sports nutrition and how you treat your body.”
All-natural sports supplementation, paired with a well-designed diet and workout plan, helps you turn sweat and determination into the results you’re looking for.
Nature’s Plus’s offers sports nutrients that are natural and convenient to add to your diet: