Increased activity levels, sweating and tissue wear and tear through rigorous training in elite athletes requires special support. Incorporate these 6 tips into your regime to help boost health, energy and performance.
Ensure you are eating adequate macronutrients for your body type and activity level. The proportions provided are just a skeleton. Nutrition is individual. You can adapt and adjust based on how you feel.
- Complex carbohydrates provide the lasting energy you need for vigorous training and competition. This macro nutrient should make up most of your diet. Additionally, athletes should include a healthy amount of brightly colored vegetables and leafy greens for much needed vitamins, minerals and enzymes for energy, metabolism, growth, repair and digestion.
Carbohydrates should = 50-60% of total calories:
+ 10-20% simple – fruits, most vegetables and any special “treats”
+ 40-50% complex – whole grains (brown rice, quinoa), legumes, starchy vegetables
- Protein provides the building blocks to build and repair muscle but it also provides the components for enzymes (for metabolism), hormones (to make you feel good), neurotransmitters (to help you react and process quickly) and anti-bodies (to keep your immune system strong and sharp).
Protein – 15-20% (max 25%) of total calories:
+ Animal – fish, poultry, meats, eggs, dairy, etc
+ Vegetable – nuts, seeds, legumes, tempeh, tofu, spirulina, etc
- Healthy Fats. Fats tend to get a bad reputation. A low to moderate amount of fat intake is recommended for a balanced and healthy diet. Fats have an important role in many bodily functions such as metabolism, cell signaling, support of body tissues, immunity, hormone production and aid in the absorption of many nutrients. Choose monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids) and saturated fat. Avoid trans-fatty acids and hydrogenated fats as these can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Fats – 25-30% of total calories:
+ Saturated – meats, eggs, dairy products, butter
+ Unsaturated – should be more than 50% of total fats including nuts, seeds, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil etc.
Limit and Avoid Toxins. Toxins are chemicals and foreign substances our bodies do not recognize and therefore cannot digest and eliminate through regular means. The toxin is stored in the body until the body’s detoxification systems can address and eliminate it. The more toxins your body has, the more valuable resources and energy is used which could otherwise be used for recovery and repair. Time is very valuable in an elite athletes’ training regime. Given the amount of rigorous training and also accumulated injuries that can occur in sparring, you need to give your body quality time to recover and heal.
- Look at the ingredients list of the foods you consume. If you cannot pronounce an ingredient, your body likely will not recognize it and it is likely not good for you. Toxins are also found in canned and preserved foods which contain preservatives and chemicals to keep the food from going bad like those found in preserved meats, cheeses and packaged foods. Also avoid artificial colors. Artificial colors and preservatives are often the source and culprits of allergy, food sensitivities and symptoms associated with various neurological disorders.
- Avoid foods that say “no sugar”, “low fat”, “real fruit”, “all natural” – these are advertising gimmicks to coax you into buying the product by making it seem like the healthier option. “No sugar” products often have artificial sweeteners like Splenda which are very toxic and often carcinogenic to the body. Low fat products may have little to no fat but pay attention to the carbohydrates and calories as they usually ramp up the sugars to make the product taste better. Remember, you do need a little natural fat to maintain a balanced diet.
- Toxins are also found on fresh fruits and vegetables through pesticide use. These can create inflammation which can cause pain in joints, allergic reactions and slow healing. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists which are a list of items consumers should avoid and seek. Get to know your local farmers and eat local and help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint.
Include lots of Fiber through fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Many take for granted the great benefits of fiber. Fiber draws out unwanted toxins from your body so that they can be excreted as opposed to remaining in your body and causing havoc and imbalances especially if they accumulate. Pay attention to the amount of bowel movements you have. Two to three movements per day is ideal! The key to optimal health is a healthy digestive system so that you can absorb the much needed nutrients you need, excrete the many toxins that surround us in our current environment, strengthen your natural gut flora which is responsible for over 75% of your immune system and it also drastically effects the way you feel physically and mentally.
Incorporate Superfoods. Superfoods contain a wide array of essential micronutrients and high quantities of vitamins and minerals. You want to get the best bang for your buck so try to incorporate this list of foods in your daily regimen to get the most vitamins and minerals as you can. They contain very potent and unique compounds that are often healing and promote added benefits to the body especially antioxidants which help the body to combat stress by protecting against tissue, joint and cell irritation caused by free radicals and oxidation of fats.
Drink lots of water! Did you know one of the biggest nutritional and health concerns in athletes is water depletion? With heavy training large water losses can occur and drinking water is the only way to remedy this. Water has many essential functions including supporting the process of sweating and elimination of toxins, nourishing the skin and other tissues; the medium which blood cells circulate and everything in the body lives. Dehydration from low fluid intake leads to poor circulation of blood with oxygen and nutrients which leads to fatigue and poor performance. Low on energy? Try drinking 2 glasses of water an hour before training and notice the difference with this simple change!
Time meals to give your body enough time to digest so that you can utilize the energy and nutrients extracted from the food you consume. Give yourself 2-3 hours to digest a meal before working out or competition. Otherwise, your digestive system will be competing with your musculoskeletal system for energy for digestion and energy for training/competition respectively. Everyone is different so pay attention to how long after a meal you’ve eaten and the way you feel. Find your sweet spot. With respect to eating in the evening, it is very important to give yourself 2-3 hours to digest before you go to bed. Not only will this prevent the body from storing excess energy as fat (weight gain), but when the body goes to sleep, this time is devoted to detoxification, repair and recovery of daily stresses. If you go to bed with a full stomach, your body will be busy digesting and won’t have time to eliminate wastes and accumulated toxins ingested throughout the day or repair worn and torn muscles and/or injuries accrued through training and/or competition. Keep the time you sleep strictly for repair so that you always come back stronger the next day.