Obviously, what you eat affects your body. But when you eat is equally important, especially if you want to increase energy, build lean muscle mass and maintain peak performance.
If you think it’s OK to eat whenever it’s convenient, you might pound down a few ill-timed meals a day. In reality, uncertainty and inconsistency of when and how much you eat diminishes your athletic performance.
Sporadic eating triggers the body’s natural response to protect its energy supplies by converting glucose to fat. “Your system is going to slow down, and that’s your body’s way of saying, ‘I don’t know when my next meal is coming,’” says Lisa Dorfman, University of Miami sports nutrition director. You are setting yourself up for heavy legs, limited stamina and poor focus, all of which drop your performance.
Consistently eating at regular intervals throughout the day provides a steady flow of calories and helps your body maximize stored energy. Dorfman says, “Your body knows what to expect and when to get it, and it finds the best way to manage energy levels.” This keeps you alert and ensures that you’re prepared for the high-energy demands of competition or training.
Consume three meals and two or three snacks throughout the day, so that you’re eating every two to two-anda- half hours. Dorfman says that snacks prevent hunger pangs, which often lead to gut-busting binge eating. She urges athletes to snack on fruit or a small sandwich instead of tempting items such as French fries or potato chips.
Fill up throughout the day with these snacks, which you can easily store in your locker.
Gatorade Perform 02 (1 bottle): Fulfills hydration needs before or during your workout and provides electrolytes for maintaining muscle function.
PowerBar Harvest Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip (1 bar)*: Fills you up with 42 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein without weighing you down during activity.
Apple, Orange or Banana (choose 1): These mid-morning snacks offer generous servings of carbs, plus other vitamins and minerals that help your body utilize its stored energy.
Rold Gold Classic Style Pretzel Thins (1 oz.): Keeps you full during the afternoon and provides a large amount of sodium, important for maintaining strength.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich (1 sandwich)*: High in calories, protein and carbs, it satisfies hunger and jump-starts your body with energy before an after-school workout or practice.
*Choose either peanut butter and jelly sandwich or PowerBar Harvest
Watch a video interview with Lisa Dorfman as she outlines when and what fluids athletes should consume before, during and after training.