By: Stephanie Rogers, founder of FitFlex Nutrition
Perform. Recover. Rehydrate. Refuel.
Really – it’s that straightforward.
To get the very best out of yourself and have the edge over your competition…take these words seriously. Athletes demand more from their bodies and peak performance starts with a solid nutrition base (both quality and quantity).
Let's break down key strategies so that you can fuel yourself with nutrients to maximize performance and recovery.
A solid nutrition base for both performance and recovery is a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. For optimum sports nutrition, meals should incorporate lean protein or dairy, vegetables or fruit, whole grains or starches, and healthy fats.
Carbohydrates are the foundation of performance nutrition. They are an athlete’s primary source of fuel and replenishing that fuel tank after training is critical.
The amount of carbohydrates needed at each meal varies depending on the individual as well as the training/sport. We recommend including whole grain pasta or rice, starches, and legumes with each meal.
Vegetables and fruit provide essential vitamins and fiber, but they do not contain the same amount of fuel as whole grains, starches, and legumes. These can be eaten at any time and you should include these with each meal.
We consider sweets, baked goods, sugary cereal, cereal bars and processed foods that are high in added sugar to be occasional treats. These foods are low in nutritional value and will prevent optimal performance and hinder recovery.
Consuming enough protein is vital to an athlete’s diet because it builds, strengthens and repairs muscle; and here’s something you may not know – eating protein keeps you feeling fuller longer. We recommend you include lean meats, low-fat dairy or eggs with each meal – including snacks.
Protein Tip: The way our body absorbs protein is like a sponge absorbing water. Water will overflow from the sponge if there is too much of it. Similar to the way our body absorbs protein, over consumption in a single setting goes to waste. Spread your protein intake out throughout the day, about 20-22 grams (size of a deck of cards) of protein 4-5 times a day and adjust according to body composition and goals.
Fat is our primary energy source when we are at rest. Dietary fat is needed to transport vitamins and nutrients throughout the body, balance hormones, and most importantly reduce inflammation.
A healthy diet should contain a balanced amount of saturated fat (animal meat, dairy, whey), monounsaturated fat (avocado, nuts, seeds), and polyunsaturated fat (fish, fish oil, flax seeds.)
Download our Grocery List for ideas to help you create meals that contain protein, carbohydrates, vegetables or fruit, and fats.
Staying hydrated is often overlooked. Athletes can lose several liters of water during a vigorous workout or game, and dehydrated muscles are more likely to strain. Drink fluids throughout the day totaling half of your body weight in ounces. Also, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.
3. Post Workout Recovery
During training, stored energy is burned, muscle tissue is damaged, and fluid is lost. Eat a post workout meal that contains simple carbohydrates, protein, and water within 60 minutes of training.
Post Workout Meal Ideas:
• Greek yogurt and fruit
• Oatmeal and a protein shake
• Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread
• Chicken and sweet potatoes
• Whole grain pasta, marinara, and lean beef
• Tuna and whole grain crackers
• Fruit smoothie with protein powder
4. Foods to Aid (and avoid) for Faster Recovery
In addition to having a solid base of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat in your daily diet, include these foods and spices to reduce inflammation and speed up recovery.
Several research studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation.
Examples: Salmon, walnuts, olive oil, fish oil, flax seed
Vitamin C helps repair tissues in the body. It is used to build collagen which is a protein used to make scar tissue, tendons, and ligaments.
Examples: Peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits
Vitamin A fights off illness and infection. It also supports early inflammation when an injury occurs.
Examples: Carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach
Antioxidants can protect your cells from free radicals and help reduce inflammation in the body.
Examples: Blueberries, tart cherries, grapes, prunes, turmeric, ginger
Avoid: During injury recovery, avoid processed foods, baked goods, and foods with high amounts of added sugar.
We recommend that 80% of your diet come from lean protein, vegetables, fruit and whole grains and the other 20% (or less) include foods and drinks that are less nutrient dense like candy, baked goods, potato chips, and alcohol (if you’re over 21).
A few guidelines
· Minimize processed foods and sweets
· Eat three servings of vegetables and one serving of fruit a day
· Include complete protein with each meal - lean meats or low-fat dairy
· Choose whole grains over refined grains
If you'd like more information about how much protein, carb, and fat you should eat for your specific sport/training, contact FitFlex Nutrition for a consultation.
Stephanie Rogers, the founder of FitFlex Nutrition, is a certified ISSA Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and also has a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification. She is a wife, mom, and Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach in the South Denver area. Her hobbies are CrossFit, skiing, and creating healthy recipes.
Stephanie’s passion is helping clients make long-term lifestyle changes that allow them to achieve their nutrition and fitness goals while focusing on balance and moderation, critical steps to establishing a healthy relationship with food. She understands that everyone is unique and works with each client individually to define achievable goals and then creates an individualized plan around those goals.