Creating an effective nutrition plan can be overwhelming. You're bombarded with so much information about what you should and shouldn't do. It's tough to figure out where to even start.
To make matters worse, the information seems to change daily. For example, carbs were once thought of as the enemy, but now they are viewed as an essential nutrient that cannot and should not be ignored.
If you don't have a plan in place, detailed and backed up by extensive research, the best thing you can do is focus on the basics. There are ways to optimize your nutrition, but you need to start with a solid foundation.
We spoke with Tavis Piattoly, sports dietitian for the New Orleans Saints and co-founder of My Sports Dietician, and he identified three basic nutrition elements for athletes.
Eat More Often
It's critical to eat more often and not space out your meals too far apart. "Eating every three to four hours will help maintain your blood sugar levels, and it will prevent you from overeating," explains Piattoly.
This all starts with a balanced breakfast. "You're coming off a long period of time when your body isn't getting any calories," he adds. "[Breakfast] fuels your muscles and helps you maintain both healthy blood glucose levels and your performance."
Breakfast has even shown to prevent overeating later in the day and to help prevent muscle breakdown if you work out early in the morning.
Consume Quality Foods
Piattoly recommends focusing on the quality of the food you eat. "You want to reduce your chance of injury or heal from an injury faster with the foods that you eat," he says.
How do you do this? Consume a good balance of fruits and vegetables, which are often lacking in athletes' diets. "Fruits and veggies enhance your immune system, reduce your chance of infection and reduce soreness," he says. "They'll help you get back on the field faster and prevent you from getting off the field too soon."
Find more high-quality food options here.
Create a Plan
To ensure you that can actually implement the first two strategies, you must establish a nutrition plan. "One of the reasons we don't eat as often as we should or consume high-quality food is we don't really think of nutrition as the most important component of everything else that's going to follow," says Piattoly.
Without a plan, you may not be prepared to eat high-quality foods throughout the day, especially if you have a busy schedule.
Piattoly recommends prepping a week's worth of snacks or meals on the weekend. "It takes 25 seconds to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which you can do on a Sunday night. You can also pack veggies, fruit and nutrition bars in a baggie, so that way you don't miss out on eating at the right times."
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