Take advantage of your schedule change this summer by making a commitment to healthier eating. Even small dietary changes over the summer can provide huge benefits. Start off gradually. You'll not only enjoy overall health benefits, you'll also begin seeing changes in your appearance and sports performance. Below are some smart food and beverage guidelines to follow this summer:
1. Choose water, milk and teas instead of high-calorie, sugary soda. Water should be your basic source of hydration, since it provides energy, enhances blood circulation and transports nutrients to the muscles. Start your summer days off with two to three glasses of water with a squeeze of lemon or lime to rehydrate your body after sleep. Following intense weight training, choose white or chocolate milk for muscle-building protein, bone-building vitamin D and calcium. Sip black or green tea throughout the day for muscle-repairing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that prevent cavities and boost metabolism.
2. Eat more fruits and veggies, since they contain powerful disease-fighting, muscle-repairing antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and compounds that help reduce muscle soreness.
3. When dining in or out, choose grilled or broiled over fried foods.
4. Snack on protein-rich nuts and seeds instead of potato chips. When you eat nuts and seeds, you're getting vitamins, minerals, beneficial fats for heart health and healing antioxidants. Potato chips, on the other hand, have very little nutritional value and contain unhealthy carbohydrates that spike blood sugar.
5. Eat whole eggs. Egg yolks contain muscle-building protein and a treasure trove of nutrients like bone-building vitamin D and eye-protective antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
6. Make breakfast your most important meal of the day. Studies show that breakfast eaters generally have fewer colds and perform better throughout the day than those who skip the meal. Also, breakfast skippers are more likely to consume too many calories throughout the day. A good breakfast includes water for hydration, a muscle-building protein (eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, nuts) and complex carbohydrates (fruit, whole grain cereal or toast) for energy.
7. Large meals take longer to digest and slow your metabolism, causing fat storage. Have five or six small meals (with both protein and carbohydrates), one every two to three hours, to get a constant flow of nutrients to the muscles, optimize fat-burning metabolism, boost energy and regulate blood sugar. Nourishing small meals, like raisins with nuts or seeds and cheese or yogurt mixed with berries, make great pre-workout energizing snacks (allow at least 45 minutes for digestion before heading to the weight room).
8. Choose whole grain cereal like oatmeal instead of sugary processed cereals. Oatmeal is a great source of daily dietary fiber, and it contains the muscle-building amino acid arginine, which lowers bad cholesterol (LDL).
9. There isn't necessarily a healthy "fast food," but if you're in a situation in which you have to pick up something quick, stick with plain or vegetarian pizza. Pizza has olive oil (a beneficial fat source), bone-building calcium and muscle-building cheese and tomato sauce. Remember that pizza is high in calories, so just a few slices with a side order of salad make a nutritious meal.
10. Consume seafood instead of processed, salty cold cuts (salami, bologna, ham). Seafood like tuna, mackerel and shrimp has muscle-building protein and omega-3 healthy fats for heart and brain health, whereas processed meats are high in sodium, which can raise blood pressure. Athletes need healthy hearts for high-intensity exercise and sharp memories to remember football plays and baseball signs.
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