Ever feel tired after a short workout even though you're following a conditioning and strength training program? Maybe you think you need to step up the reps or tack on another mile to your runs. Adding more intensity to your workouts can help boost your stamina, but more likely than not, you need to evaluate what you eat.
Here are five nutrition habits that may be making you feel "out of shape" despite your rigorous conditioning program, and how you can correct them to improve your stamina.
1. Meal the Night Before
Ever heard of carb loading? It's the idea that filling up on carbs (like pasta) the night before a competition will fill your muscles with glycogen and give you more energy the next day. There are advantages to a proper night-before meal. But you don't need to eat a pound of pasta to realize them. Instead, eat a balanced meal with protein (beef, chicken or fish) and carbohydrate (pasta, bread). You really can't go wrong with the protein or carb source you choose; just don't have a salad with no meat or a snack in place of a meal. In-season is not a good time to try to cut weight, so make sure you have a hearty dinner you will enjoy.
2. Pre-Game Meal
You should eat a light meal approximately one hour before warm-ups. Make sure to include a protein source like peanut butter and a carbohydrate like fruit or crackers. Depending on how your stomach works, you might need to eat a little less or a little more. A few peanut butter crackers or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich are my favorite options. Protein bars, bananas, apples and granola are also good. Check out the video player above for sports dietitian Leslie Bonci's recommendations for athletes to eat and drink before exercise.
Learn more about how to prepare your pre-game meal.
3. Hydration Strategy
This has to start three days before competition. Consistently drink 100 ounces or more of water every day. During activity, drink only water during the first two hours (including warm-up); drink half water/half sports drink for three to five hours of activity; and during long tournaments, drink one bottle of water and two sports drinks after five hours of work. For an extra kick of energy before a game, drink about 8 ounces of a sports drink between warm-ups and start time. For long tournament days, it's OK to treat yourself to a milkshake after competition to refuel your body for the next day. To learn more about proper hydration strategy, watch the video player above, in which Leslie Bonci explains which fluids are best for hydration.
4. Time Between Meals
Going long periods between meals affects metabolism and competition. If your body does not get regular feedings, your metabolism slows down to make sure your meals last as long as possible. This is a survival mechanism that helps the body function in periods of starvation. But a slower metabolism can increase body fat, which is not ideal for any athlete. Best practice: eat within 30 minutes of waking, then have a snack or a meal every 2 to 3 hours. Choose healthy snacks like fruit, veggies, nuts, granola or dried cereal, so you won't pack on weight by eating high-fat and sugary snacks. In the video above, sports dietitian Leslie Bonci answers questions about the number of meals you should be eating per day.
5. Not Eating Enough
This is more of a problem for female athletes, but it can affect all athletes, especially those who compete in sports (like wrestling) that require you to weigh in. Male athletes trying to build muscle mass should consume 24-27 calories per pound of body weight per day. Female athletes with the same goal should consume 20-23 calories per pound of body weight. Athletes engaged in high-intensity training and endurance athletes need to consume more—36 calories per pound for males and 27 calories per pound for females.
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