By Christina Thompson, Sports Nutrition Educator
Are you an athlete looking to gain that competitive edge? Well being fit doesn't just mean feeling strong and working out hard, it also means how you fuel your body to be your ultimate best. With everyone having such hectic schedules, it is no wonder everyone is looking for foods they can eat on the go, but when you are an athlete looking to compete, getting the right nutrition is essential!
To have the extra strength and endurance, every athlete must know that refraining from tobacco and alcohol are necessities to ensure your concentration and ability to compete. But what you may not know are simple things you can do to enhance your performance out on the playing field.
Adequate nutrition requires planning. So taking small snacks and meals with you is a definite plus right before a competition. Carry nutritious snacks or meals with you. Try the following ideas:
- Cut-up veggies in sealable plastic bags
- Crackers with peanut butter
- Dried or fresh fruit
- Bagel with cream cheese
- Small PB and J sandwich
Be careful though, you don't want to load yourself down with heavy meals, especially meals that are high in fat. Plus, sometimes you just don't have enough time to prepare snacks and meals before a competition and the bus just happens to stop at a fast food restaurant, then what can you do? Right?!
Well, no matter where you go, there is always something nutritious, you just have to know what to look for. Many times, fast food restaurants have a nutrition facts sheet. Ask for it. Often times, what may sound healthy, really isn't. Read the nutrition labels if they are available and try to choose foods that are < 30% fat. That way you won't weigh your stomach down when you're out competing. Here are some other important tips that can help you make better choices eating on the road:
Avoid foods that are buttered or fried. A large French frie from McDonalds has 610 Calories and 41g of fat. Try a baked potato with light sour cream and use salsa instead.
Look for foods that have the words grilled, broiled, or steamed in the names of the item. Look for stir-fried foods, broiled chicken breasts, or grilled fish fillets.
Order the regular sizes instead of the larger sizes, this includes sodas or pops as well. Large sizes contain many more Calories and fat which may impair your performance out on the field. Large sodas or pops also contain many extra, unwanted Calories, sugar and not to mention, they can dehydrate you.
Go LIGHT on the condiments. Ask for foods without the mayo or the cheese. Use light or fat-free dressings and light sour cream. Salsas, relish, ketchup, mustards, and herbs are all much healthier alternatives.
LOAD UP ON THE VEGGIES! Veggies are full of essential nutrients and vitamins that can enhance your game. Load them up on your salads and sandwiches.
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER! We all know water is important, but it is especially important for athletes. Dehydration can slow you down, and since you lose most of your water through sweat, make sure you drink plenty before and after your competition.
Hey, after a competition and you're feeling thirsty, you're already dehydrated! Just remember that for every pound of weight lost after competition equals 2 cups of water, which means you should drink enough water to at least replenish yourself!!
Remember, eating on the road doesn't have to be difficult, you just have to know what to look for. So try to prepare ahead and if you can't, remember: You CAN find nutritious foods wherever you go!