Sports nutrition is a crucial component of an athlete’s performance. From high school to college, and even beyond, what an athlete eats, or drinks can have a significant impact on energy levels, recovery, and overall health.
At Signing Day Sports, we want to see everybody be able to achieve their goals. Eating right can and will improve your performance allowing you to reach your full potential.
Today, on The Wire, we will discuss the basics of sports nutrition and provide actionable tips and guidelines for prospective student-athletes along with their coaches and parents.
Sports Nutrition Basics
Most, if not all, are likely aware of the actual “basics” regarding food and liquid intake. That is, food fills you up and gives you energy. Liquids quench your thirst. Certain amounts of food and liquids are required of everyone. Simple.
What isn’t as commonly understood are the many performance-based benefits to be had if you optimize your intake. Energy, recovery, and athletic performance can all be directly impacted by what you consume. With that said, let’s dive into the “sports nutrition basics.”
In general, an athlete should consider the following things regarding their food and liquid intake:
- Analyzing quantity and timing of adequate caloric intake
- Reaching the needed level of macronutrient intake
- Meeting daily fluid needs
- Strategic nutritional supplementation
Following these will result in improved physical and cognitive performance.
What Role Do Macronutrients Play?
Think of macronutrients as “the big three.” That is, the main three food groups that athletes will need to focus on. They consist of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists suggested percentages for each of these three macronutrients, referring to what portion of your daily caloric intake is derived from each. Carbohydrates should be 45-65% of your diet, protein should be 10-35%, and fat should be 20-35%.
For athletes, this ratio can be altered depending on athletes’ specific needs. For example, an endurance athlete would want to raise their intake of carbohydrates, whereas a strength athlete would want to raise protein.
Healthy carbohydrates for an athlete’s diet may include whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, pasta, or quinoa, and starchy vegetables, such as potatoes.
Healthy protein can be derived from a variety of sources such as lean meat, seafood, eggs, beans/lentils, nuts/seeds, and soy.
Healthy fat consists of oily fish, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Examples of Meals
We have thrown a lot at you, and sometimes it’s hard to take everything in. Read below for some meal examples that would perfectly meet the needs of just about every athlete. Feel free to customize or alter them as you see fit.
- Eggs – either boiled, poached, or scrambled
- Whole grain toast or bagel
- Chicken/Tofu stir-fry
- Brown rice
- Green beans
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Cooked in olive oil
- Sweet Potato
- Bean Chili
- Hemp seeds
- Snack Options
- Carrots or Pita dipped in hummus
- Fruit smoothie with fruit
- Greek yogurt with granola, nuts, or berries
- Banana with peanut butter or almond butter
As you can see, there are lots of needs that must be met by athletes in order to optimize their performance. In order to meet these needs, one must plan their meals accordingly. While this level of time management may seem unrealistic given everything else in a typical athlete’s day, there are ways to simplify it.
One such way to meet your dietary needs is to “meal prep.” This entails cooking multiple portions of a meal and safely storing it for usage throughout the following days or weeks.
Doing so ensures that you will be able to include the proper ratios of macronutrients, sufficient calories, and saves time in your day.
In today’s world of collegiate athletics, supplements can be a scary word – almost taboo. However, in its most basic sense, supplements can greatly benefit athletes.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to achieve all of the necessary dietary suggestions in your day. This is where supplements come in handy. Some people use protein powder. Some take vitamins or minerals. There’s a supplement for just about every dietary need out there. Take the time to learn where you may have a deficiency and ask a physician if a supplement may be right for you.
Additionally, things like caffeine and creatine have been clinically proven to boost an athlete’s performance. While some people are sensitive to caffeine’s effects, and creatine needs to be taken under a physician’s supervision, there are noted benefits to both. And if you can figure out proper ratios and dosages, the added energy and muscle-building properties derived from both caffeine and creatine respectively, go a long way in optimizing an athlete’s performance.
Avoid These Mistakes
We understand that life happens, and nobody can be perfect. With that said, as often as you can avoid the following situations, you will be better off for it.
Often, people miss meals. Some people prefer it, others just can’t find the time, or they wake up too late. However, athletes need to be vigilant about their meals and their macronutrient intake.
In line with missing meals, many people struggle with drinking enough water throughout the day. Or people might mistakenly believe that drinking soda or sugary sports drinks may replace the hydrating properties of water.
Most commonly, people turn to junk food. Again, it’s understandable. But at all costs, try to avoid junk food like your athletic career depends on it. While it tastes good and may make you happy in the short-term, consider its potential negative impact on your athletic performance and end goal.
Sports Nutrition Takeaways
Sports nutrition is a huge component of an athlete’s overall performance in his or her sport. The team at Signing Day Sports encourages prospective student-athletes to take ownership of their nutrition and continually strive to achieve their overall goal.
By understanding these basics that we discussed today, athletes will be able to improve their energy level, recovery from training, and overall physical and cognitive performance.
Still, it’s best to consult with a trained sports nutritionist or dietician to fully understand your individual dietary needs or restrictions.