A healthy diet is essential for everyone regardless of their profession. However, if you are a professional athlete, you will most likely have special nutrition requirements. As a result of pushing your body to its extremes with regard to physical activity, it needs a lot of energy. It also needs to quickly rebuild the tissues and cells that get worn out.
Professional athletes usually have nutritionists who cater for everything that they put in your mouth. You might want to live an athlete’s life, but you don’t have the luxury of hiring personal nutritionists. You can create an athlete’s diet for yourself.
In this piece, we are going to discuss the minerals and nutrients that an athlete needs most. We will also highlight the top 5 foods that should feature prominently in an athlete’s diet.
Minerals and Nutrients that Athletes Need
Carbs are to an athlete what fuel is to a car. You cannot take the kind of physical beating an athlete takes when low on carbs. You need a lot of energy, and you can only get it from taking in a lot of carbs. Carbohydrates are converted into glycogen. Use muscles use glycogen as fuel when you are exercising or involved in any physical activity.
You should ensure most of the calories you take are derived from carbohydrates. Calories from carbs produce energy when burnt.
You will need a lot of protein as well. That does not mean that you have to take excess protein. Take time to find out how much protein your body needs. Protein supplies your body with the building blocks it needs. Think of your body as a machine. If you put it through intense use, certain parts are going to wear out and they will need to be replaced or refurbished. That is what protein does to your worn-out tissues, after the intense physical activities that come with an athlete’s lifestyle.
If your exercise routines are too intense, you are going to need foods that are rich in unsaturated fats. Carbs might not be able to provide all the energy you need by themselves. As your exercise routines get more intense and longer, your body starts burning fats to produce the energy needed.
If you already have enough fat in your body, you do not need to add more. That would be the case for someone who’s looking to shed off weight. However, if you don’t have enough you might have to take in some fatty foods so that you have enough energy. Avoid saturated fats at all costs.
You will need plenty of B-complex vitamins and vitamin D. B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin help to produce the energy you so much need from the carbs and fats that you eat. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium. Calcium is essential for bone development and strengthening. As an athlete, you can never downplay the importance of a strong bone structure.
Minerals such as zinc, iron, potassium, and calcium are very important for an athlete. Too much physical activity forces the body to use up these minerals fast. You, therefore, need to replenish them as fast as possible. You might have to take some supplements to keep your supply of these essential minerals high.
Here are the top 5 foods that should not miss in an athlete’s diet.
Whole eggs are a great source of the lean protein and unsaturated fats you need. We have mentioned that protein and fats are essential for energy and rebuilding your body. Take the whole egg; the white and the yolk. The yolk carries all the proteins and fats, and the while has a wide range of mineral nutrients and vitamins.
Whole Grains and Oatmeal
You need a whole lot of carbs in your body. You can get them from whole grains such as brown rice, wheat meals, millet and others. Oatmeal is a good source of carbohydrates as well. Such food is rich in dietary fiber as well. Dietary fiber ensures digestion is seamless.
Avoid any refined grains. They do not have as much nutritional value as whole grains. You need all the nutrients you can get out of these whole grains. Such whole meals should be the base of most of your meals. Keep it in mind that you need them because you will be using a lot of energy in your workouts.
Nuts and Seeds
Remember we mentioned how you need unsaturated fat for energy. You can get such fat from nuts and seeds. Avoid taking too much meat-based fat. Cashews and walnuts are a great source of the said fats. Seeds such as sunflower seeds and flax seeds have plenty of unsaturated fats as well.
The best thing about nuts and seeds is that you can eat them as snacks. They can be prepared in many ways. The most popular one is roasting. You can bite on roasted nuts in between meals
Fruits and Vegetables
The last thing you need as an athlete is infections and illnesses. You can keep those at bay by ensuring your diet includes healthy servings of fruits and vegetables. Green vegetables such as kale and spinach contain minerals such as potassium, calcium, zinc, and iron. Fruits will also supply you with essential vitamins such as Vitamin D and C. These mineral nutrients will not only keep infections away but also help you recover faster in case you get injured. Injuries are part of being an athlete.
Milk and other dairy products are all-around foods that nourish the body with a wide range of nutrients and minerals. One of the most important nutrients in dairy products is a compound known as DHA. DHA enhances brain health. It will give you mental clarity, which you so much need as an athlete. Milk is also a rich source of calcium. It will help strengthen your bone structure and keep you in perfect shape for working out.
In general, as an athlete, you need to concentrate on three major things. Supplying your body with energy, rebuilding and repairing worn-out cells and tissues, and strengthening your bone structure. Remember to keep yourself hydrated by drinking a lot of water.
You can live an athlete’s lifestyle if you put your mind to it. That might mean staying away from steaks and burgers, but in the long run, you will enjoy the feeling of being in control of your body. An occasional steak or burger will do you no harm though. You can plan for a cheat meal once in a while.