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Healthy eating allows athletes to train longer at a higher intensity, promote recovery, delay fatigue and increase their level of concentration. So it's critical that athletes become regimented on what they eat, hydrate both pre- and post-workout and make smart food choices on the road. Become a nutrition-conscious, high performance athlete—elite in the weight room, on the field and at meal time.
Eating before exercise
- Include a small amount of protein in your pre-workout meal. Protein helps build and repair muscle, so this is a critical eating habit to develop. (See Get the Most Out of Your Post-Workout Protein.)
- Choose meals that are low in fat and high in fiber to ensure proper digestion.
- Eat two to three hours prior to working out. An example of a good pre-workout meal: turkey or tuna sandwich with fat-free yogurt and some fruit.
- 30 minutes to an hour before exercise, have a low-sugar sports drink with electrolytes. If you can't find one, eat some fruit
Eating after exercise
- Immediately after your workout, have a carbohydrate-and-protein-rich shake to replace fluids and repair muscle tissue. (Check out The Best Post-Workout Carbs.)
- Within 15 to 30 minute after your workout, eat a small snack. Example: a fruit smoothie.
- Eat nutrient-dense foods—i.e., foods that deliver a complete nutritional package, including good amounts of vitamins and minerals.
- Monitor your hydration by assessing your urine color. Check it first thing in the morning and throughout the day. Dark urine indicates dehydration; light yellow or clear urine indicates a normal level of hydration.
- Monitor your body weight before and after exercise to estimate sweat loss. It's best to get the help of a sports dietitian with this one.
- The longer and more intense the workout, the more you perspire. Replace all the lost sweat by hydrating before, during and after a workout.
- Watch for signs of dehydration, such as dizziness, thirst, premature fatigue and an inability to handle the entire capacity of your workout.
Eating on the road
- When traveling with a team and forced to eat in restaurants, choose foods with plenty of nutrients.
- Pack a water bottle or a sports drink and take in enough fluids to maintain hydration and replace fluid lost during competition.
- Eat foods that are baked, broiled or grilled.
- Pack a snack such as trail mix, dried fruit and sports bars.