With summer finally here, realize this: your break is from school, not training. And your eating habits need to be in tune with all the hard workouts you’ll be doing. Below are guidelines for summer fueling to maintain energy, build muscle and recover properly.
Forget about snoozing all summer long and skipping breakfast. Big mistake. “If I don’t eat a good breakfast, it messes me up for the entire day,” says New York Yankees SS Derek Jeter. “You have to take the time to do it.”
You might think it’s no big deal to skip a meal here and there, but inconsistent eating prevents you from achieving performance goals, says Dr. Kim White, senior scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Start the day by fueling well and continue the pattern throughout the day.
When you don’t eat enough, your body lacks the energy to grind in the weight room and on the fi eld. It’s like opening your wallet, realizing you’ve got no cash and borrowing a few bucks from a friend. Problem solved. Sort of. You still have to pay it back. Likewise, when you fail to fuel, your body borrows energy from protein. Problem solved. Sort of. You’ll get through a workout, but protein is the last resource you want to pull energy from, because the body needs it to recover and build muscle.
How can you avoid this? Simple: keep your stock up. Dr. White advises eating every two to four hours. Store your fuel bank with adequate calories, primarily from carbs, the body’s go-to energy source.
Protein’s Role in Recovery
Post-training, protein is essential for increasing muscle size and strength, because it provides amino acids—the building blocks for muscle growth and recovery.
Dr. White elaborates: “The timing of protein following an exercise session is very important. When you exercise, enzymes in your muscles are activated and are more ready to use protein following exercise. You also need some carbohydrate to help that protein get into the muscles.”
As a general guideline, consume approximately 20 grams of protein and 40 to 80 grams of simple carbohydrates within 30 minutes of a training session. First team All-NBA center Dwight Howard endorses Recover, part three of the G Series of pre-, during and post-training fuels. A recovery shake, another easy go-to, includes whey protein, which experts believe is most effective for muscle repair. Pair the shake with a piece of fruit to take in simple sugars for restoring glycogen.
What to Eat
Consistent eating is only half the battle. The other half is what you put into your body. Dr. White says, “An athlete’s diet should be very well-rounded, because if you’re not getting enough nutrients, performance starts to suffer.”
A combo of carbs, protein and fat at regular intervals gives you a steady flow of calories and maximal energy. Dr. White says you’ve got to have the right intake:
Sources: Bagels, whole-wheat bread, pasta, brown rice, beans, pita bread and potatoes
Sources: Chicken, fish, lean cuts of red meat
Sources: Olive oil, nuts, avocado and peanut butter
What does this look like in actual meals?
- 1C instant oatmeal made with water
- ½C blueberries or strawberries
- 12 oz orange juice
- Water (as much as desired)
- 1 whole-grain bagel
- Low-fat Swiss cheese
- ½ avocado
- Dijon mustard
- 3 oz turkey
- 1½C rice or pasta
- 2 servings (½C each) of vegetables
- 1 grilled chicken breast
- 8 oz Gatorade and water
Role of Snacks
Snacking is critical, especially salty foods in the summertime. Hot, humid weather produces more sweat loss—setting up perfect conditions for muscle cramps. While fluid intake is the main way to prevent cramps, Dr. White says you can also help your body by eating between meals:
- Crackers and cheese
- Beef jerky
- Salted nuts
- Trail mix
Another benefit: Salt makes you thirsty, prompting you to drink more, keeping you hydrated.
Related link: Stay hydrated all summer long with the 24/7 Summer Hydration Plan.