Nutrition to Boost Your Classroom, Workout and Game Performance

February 15, 2013 | Jim Carpentier

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Every food and beverage has a positive or negative effect on physical and mental performance, mood, and overall health. Is poor nutrition preventing you from becoming your best self? Make today the day you take the step to achieve maximum success in the classroom, weight room and on the field—and to stay healthy.

Brain Performance

Consuming plant-based foods and beverages along with sustainable seafood improves your memory and may even prevent brain disease. Make "smarter" choices before final exams and big games to help you remember your classroom material and your sports plays and strategy. A major overlooked brain-enhancing beverage is water. Even slight dehydration decreases mental and physical alertness, so definitely consume adequate amounts of water and water-based fruits and veggies. Top picks are:

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Concord grape juice
  • Dark chocolate
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Olive oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary
  • Salmon
  • Black and green tea

Gym and Weight Room Performance

Sustaining energy during trips to the gym and helping muscles recover and grow between sessions in the weight room requires good nutrition. Before workouts you need energy-fueling carbohydrates. (See Pre-Workout Food: Fuel Up The Right Way.) Good choices include:

  • Bananas
  • Raisins
  • Yams
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice

After workouts, your body craves protein-rich foods. (See Post-Workout Foods for Any Occasion.) Top picks include:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Milk

Ideally, have a small pre-workout meal consisting of some protein and carbohydrates, like yogurt and a banana. Immediately after exercise (within 15-30 minutes), have a high-carbohydrate/moderate-protein meal or beverage such as chocolate milk and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich on whole grain bread. Don't forget the importance of water before, during and after workouts for sufficient hydration to aid muscle recovery/growth from exercise and for transporting those muscle-building nutrients.

Game-Time Performance

Similar to small pre-workout meals, pair an energizing fruit with a muscle-recovery protein source 45 to 60 minutes before heading to practice or a game. Playing in a warm environment requires not only water consumption to deter dehydration, but also minerals such as sodium, iron, potassium and magnesium to avoid cramping and to replace nutrients lost through excess perspiration. Salted nuts and salted popcorn or sunflower seeds mixed with potassium- and iron-rich dried fruit are good choices. (Ask the Experts: When Should I Eat My Pre-Game Meal? and check out NY Giants LB Mark Herzlich's Fish Taco Recipe.)

Heart Health

Cardiovascular health needs to be a priority for all athletes. A combination of exercise and nutritious foods and beverages can help lower your risk for heart disease. Healthy hearts are vital for athletes engaging in strenuous exercise and intense sports, particularly where muscular endurance is required during long-lasting practices and games.

Photo: Hyatt.jobs

Jim Carpentier
- Jim Carpentier, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, New Jersey-licensed massage therapist, and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as Associate Health and...
Jim Carpentier
- Jim Carpentier, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, New Jersey-licensed massage therapist, and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as Associate Health and...
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