When you fuel properly, you have more energy, sleep better, enhance your recovery after practices and games, and improve your overall performance. Many people think proper nutrition is complicated. This is not the case. If you are tired of feeling exhausted during the season, or cannot work your hardest during training sessions, observe most or all of the following 10 nutrition rules. They will make an immediate positive impact on your performance. (Read Sarah Reinertsen's tried and true strategy.)
1. Come back to earth. Choose the least processed foods, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, and high fiber carbohydrates.
2. Eat a rainbow of colors. Eat fruits or vegetables with each meal. Choose a wide variety of colors to get a lot of nutrients.
3. The fewer legs, the better. Eat a lean protein source with each meal, but favor chicken, turkey or fish over beef, pork or lamb.
4. Eat healthy fats. Don't shy away from healthy fat options, like olive oil, nuts, natural nut butters, seeds, avocado, fish, flaxseed and flaxseed oil.
5. Eat breakfast every day. When you eat within 30 minutes of waking up, you jump-start your metabolism and give yourself the energy you need for the day ahead.
6. Three for three. Eat smaller portions more often, spread evenly throughout the day—no excuses. Eat four to six small meals each day and aim for a balance of carbs, protein and fat with each one.
7. Stay hydrated. Dehydration equals decreased performance. Drink at least three liters of non-caloric beverages (water/green tea) every day.
8. Don't waste your workouts. You need energy for training and the proper nutrients to recover, or you won't make gains in the weight room. Think of this process in three stages—pre-, during and post-activity. Eat some carbohydrate-rich foods before, water and/or carbohydrate during, and protein with carbohydrate within 30 minutes after.
9. Supplement wisely. Fuel with real foods first and supplement second. If you are not getting all the nutrients you need through food, add a multivitamin to your daily routine. Create a smart supplementation program that improves your performance without compromising your health or draining your wallet. Before you take any type of supplement, make sure to check in with your doctor or a registered dietitian. (When supplements can help.)
10. Sleep. Aim for eight hours of sleep each night. If you can't consistently get 8, take power naps when you can. The body recovers and repairs best when it is sleeping.
And finish off with:
The 80/20 Rule. Each meal and snack is an opportunity to fuel your body. Choose foods that are best for you 80 percent of the time. Eat some foods that may not be the best, but are your favorites, 20 percent of the time!