Understand the 3 Key Elements of a Healthy Diet Plan for Athletes

Learn to control the three main elements of a healthy diet plan to fuel yourself for maximum athletic performance.

Putting together a healthy diet plan can seem overwhemling. There are so many fad diets, it makes it difficult to know what's right for you. For athletes, eating is all about fueling for superior performance on the field.

A healthy diet has three main areas of concern: food choices, hydration and portion control. If an athlete can control all three, he or she can successfully create a healthy diet plan.

Food Choices

Understand the 3 Key Elements of a Healthy Diet Plan for Athletes

We live in a world where we are surrounded by fast food and microwavable meals. Although they're convenient, they might not be the best foods to fuel athletic performance. The most important thing is to find foods that will help build lean muscle, repair your body and ensure gains long after you complete your training or event. Many of the nutrients that accomplish these things can be found in non-processed foods. Organic and all-natural foods ensure that what you're eating hasn't been pumped with additives or preservatives.

Protein

Lean chicken, beef and fish are all great. If you do not eat meat, you can go with green peas ( a serving of which contains around the same amount of protein as a cup of milk), or you can increase the amount of nuts, beans and legumes in your diet. Beans are an extremely underutilized food in the American diet. They're high in protein, fiber and other useful nutrients.

RELATED: The High-Protein Food You Aren't Eating Enough Of

Carbohydrates

When it comes to carbohydrates, it's hard to beat quinoa. Although most grains contain a small amount of protein, quinoa contains more than 8 grams per cup. Quinoa delivers carbs and protein simultaneously, which not only helps your body feel full but also speeds the recovery process. Whole grain foods are another fantastic source of carbohydrates that will give you long-lasting energy.

Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are extremely important. Spinach should be included in every athlete's diet. This green leaf has the ability to process digestion, which makes you feel fuller longer. Your diet should also include pineapple and papaya. Both of these tropical fruits contain enzymes that help your body break down and digest protein—and they possess anti-inflammatory properties that speed up your body's recovery process.

Hydration

Drinking Water

You should drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. It sounds like a lot, but by simply keeping a water bottle around throughout the day, you can easily reach this goal.

RELATED: Hydrate With Food

During any event or training, you should drink some water every 15 minutes. Dehydration leads to a drop in performance—the last thing an athlete wants. Adding lemons to your water is a smart idea. Lemon water has the ability to keep your liver in check and can keep your skin healthy. Water should always be your first choice when it comes to hydration—not options like fruit drinks or soda. The excess sugar in those drinks lets you quickly and mindlessly consume extra calories. Stick to water if you're serious about changing your body.

Portion Control

Portion Control

Portion control is key when it comes to a healthy diet plan.

RELATED: How to Handle Portion Control When Increasing Your Activity Level

Avoid the "halo effect." This refers to someone who eats healthy foods but goes overboard on portions, thereby consuming too many calories for the day. For proper portion sizes, remember how to organize your plate. Protein should be the size of your smartphone, carbohydrates should be the size of your fist, and fruits and vegetables should take up the rest of your plate. This is a simple way to visualize what a healthy meal looks like. Also, the more colorful your plate, the more diverse nutrients you'll be eating. Stock up on a wide range of colorful fruits and veggies; your body will thank you for it.

Eating healthy is all about finding what works best for you, but if you follow these three easy tips, you'll get started down the right path.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: PROTEIN | DIET | FOODS | RECOVERY | CARBOHYDRATES | NUTRIENTS | BEANS | HYDRATION | QUINOA | HEALTHY DIET