What is the key to maximizing athletic performance? The definite answer to this varies between sports, individuals, ages, etc., but I can tell you that no matter who you are, one of the most important parts is consistent nutrition. And this doesn’t just mean at home. In fact, you must pay extra close attention to this when sports take you on the road.
Whether traveling by plane, train, or automobile, planning for food is often forgotten. Knowing that there is always food at gas stations, rest stops, hotels, etc., the priority goes to packing for yourself and your kids, making sure that no sporting equipment was forgotten, and all hotel, flight, and transportation arrangements have been confirmed.
But, the whole reason you’re traveling is for the sport. And the ultimate goal of any sport is to win. In order to win, athletes must be performing their best. A key component of this? Nutrition. So, how can athletes stay on track with their nutrition while traveling? Here are a few important steps:
Especially when traveling by plane, it is important to make sure we stay hydrated. During a one-hour plane flight, it is possible to lose up to 7 ounces of water. That is almost a whole cup! The Mayo Clinic also explains that dehydration can make symptoms of jet lag worse. So, make it a priority to drink water during travel. The easiest way to always have water available is to bring your own water bottle. Plus, you’ll be helping the environment by doing this! If you’re traveling by plane, you can bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up once you’re in the terminal!
2. Make it a team goal
When it comes to traveling with your team, no one wants to be the odd one out. Even if a kid is offered a healthier option, he/she is not going to pass up team pizza night (and shouldn’t have to!). But, win as a team, lose as a team, right? And nutrition is going to contribute to winning. Making sure the whole team is on board with healthy, home-style meals during the trip will help to make sure the whole team is performing their best.
3. Make it Fun
What’s more fun than winning? Not much. So, explain to the athlete(s) that eating similar to how they eat at home will improve their athletic performance and improve their chances of winning. That way, they will understand, get excited about, and have fun eating their healthy pre-game meal.
4. Good Nutrition
I’ve thrown around the words “good nutrition” a few times now. But what does it mean? It means eating enough. It means variety. It means balance. Having a full, balanced plate with a variety (read: rainbow) of foods at each meal encourages good nutrition. The visual below gives an idea of what a healthy “Athletes Plate” might look like.
My health teacher once told me that “We [humans] are like a walking Earth.” By that, she meant that our bodies are comprised mainly of water. 60% to be exact. It makes sense, then, that when we feel thirsty, our body has lost water and what should quench our thirst is plain water. However, with many sports beverages, like Gatorade, advertising “ultimate hydration,” it can be hard to determine exactly what to drink in order to rehydrate.
The sweat that is released when you work out is mostly water, but it also contains electrolytes like salt and potassium. These electrolytes work together within the body to maintain proper balance. So, sometimes a Gatorade is the move. But when exactly is it appropriate to consume, not only the electrolytes in Gatorade, but also its high amounts of sugar?
Here is a guide to help you figure out which method of hydration is best for you!
**Even when this map leads you to a G2 or Gatorade, it is still extremely important to be drinking lots of water as well!
This bar tells it straight. NO BS. The RX bars have very few ingredients in order to provide people with healthy, on the go snacks. The chocolate sea salt bar contains dates, egg whites, almonds, cashews, chocolate, cocoa, and sea salt. These ingredients will keep you sharp, focused, and full until your next meal.
Can’t think clearly? Having trouble focusing on assignments or projects? Here is the perfect bar to boost your brainpower, stabilize your blood sugars and get you through your work. This bar is full walnuts and almonds, which have healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to kickstart your brain. These nuts are known to increase brain function and improve memory.
Chia seeds are extremely beneficial to your body. Providing you with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, iron, and calcium, it is a powerhouse of nutrients. This 100 calorie bar is the perfect on the go snack or breakfast bar.
Lara Bars are both delicious and nutritious. The Cherry Pie bar has only three ingredients: unsweetened cherries, dates, and almonds. Not only do the cherries provide anti inflammatory properties, but this bar provides you with vitamin B and enough energy to fuel your body.
Busy day ahead of you? Don’t have time to stop and eat? As much as not skipping meals is strongly advised, we all have those busy days where sitting and eating a meal is not an option. The Carob Chip Perfect Bar has just the perfect amount of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. While this bar is 330 calories, it gives you enough energy to make it through strenuous work days, long travel days, or back to back classes. This bar will hold you over until your able to grab a snack.
Not all athletes are the same. Fueling needs for a gymnast will be different from that of a triathlete. Endurance sports have different energy and nutrient needs than power sports. Training for endurance sports can be physically and mentally challenging. Focusing on proper fueling is an integral part of these sports. Without the right fuel, you won’t perform your best. Who wants to barely have enough energy to cross the finish line? Not me, that’s for sure! I am going to walk you through the macronutrients and micronutrients needed to fuel your body during an endurance performance.
Where to begin?
Macronutrients: Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
Carbohydrates: Most of your diet should be carbohydrates, anywhere from 50-65% of your calories needs. You will need a mix of complex and simple carbohydrates. Meals should consist of complex carbohydrates. Fueling before, during and after training and events with simple carbohydrates.
Complex Carbohydrates: Whole grains, brown rice, sweet potatoes, squash, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, corn, and oats.
Simple Carbohydrates: Gels, gummies, Gatorade, Powerade or similar liquids; Crackers; Bars (look for ones that are lower in protein and fat); Dates; Rice balls (see internet for recipes): Simple sandwiches (light PB & j, honey, jam); Baby Potatoes boiled in bouillon.
Protein: Each meal should contain protein. You will also need a source of protein after training for recovery (along with a source of carbohydrate) to stop breaking down muscle and start the repair process. Lean proteins, seafood, legumes, dairy, nuts and seeds are all great options.
Fat: Eating “good fats” make up about 30% of your calorie needs. Sometimes more depending on your overall goals. Less than 10% should come from saturated sources. Limit or eliminate foods and products that contain trans fat. Oils, nuts, seeds, olives, avocado are all rich in fat that will leave your body feeling repaired and refueled.
Sodium: A higher sweat rate increases sodium loss. It is important that this mineral is closely paid attention to. Most endurance athletes need more sodium in their diet that the recreational athlete. Table salt, seaweed, soy sauce, packaged foods are all very high in sodium. Be sure to check the label.
Iron: Important for all endurance athletes because of the aerobic metabolism and high red blood cell turnover from foot strike hemolysis. Females are at higher risk for iron deficiency anemia because of menstruation. Red meats, tofu, seafood, lentils, navy beans, spinach, fortified cereals and organ meats are all rich in iron.
Calcium and Vitamin D: Low intake or deficiencies can increase risk of stress fractures. Be sure to have dairy products, oysters, broccoli, cabbage, okra, soy beans, fortified orange juice, fortified soy products to decrease the risk and leave your bones feeling strong.
Vitamin D: Dairy products, fatty fish, fortified cereals, fortified orange juice and soy milk, organ meats egg yolks and sunshine.
How do you know how much of eat?
Working with a sports dietitian can help you figure out a diet that works for you. Often, athletes look to other athletes, internet and coaches who may be giving them well-intended information that may not work for them.
If you are interested in taking your athletic performance to the next level, download our “Sports Nutrition Workbook” or schedule a consultation with us.
by Alene Baronian
Learn how to fuel your body for strenuous activity with the Sports Nutrition Workbook:
Remember the saying “you are what you eat”? Well, it’s pretty much true, at least in terms of athletic performance. Nutrition is an essential part of being an athlete. The quantity and type of food you consume can impact your games, practices, energy, and more. Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your meals!
The Fake News
There are plenty of misconceptions about what an athlete should or shouldn’t eat to maintain (or lose) their weight while simultaneously improving their athletic performance. To be sure, everything should be consumed in moderation, but there are some false claims out there that we should talk about.
Carbohydrates (carbs) are bad. Especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
In today’s day and age, low-carb diets, including ketogenic, are heavily encouraged as a method to shave off pounds. (If you don’t know about the ketogenic diet, read about it in here). Here’s the real news: carbohydrate is the main source for generating fuel during exercise. When your carb consumption is inadequate, it means your performance will also be inadequate.
Harvard student-athlete Samantha Acker held a similar misconception but after meeting with a nutritionist, she worked on getting slow-digesting carbs, and says it’s made a big difference.
She says, “I don’t have as many cravings after practice and I feel like I have more energy during long conditioning sets.” Carbs give you sustenance and allow you to play or practice for prolonged periods of time. Depending on the intensity and the duration of exercise, you should be fueling up both before and after with carbs. Check out Tables 1 & 2 in this study to find out recommendations based on these 2 factors.
You can’t get protein if you’re vegan or vegetarian. And it’s not sustainable as an athlete.
Meat isn’t the only source of protein you can find; it’s just the most talked about. Michigan student-athlete alumni Caroline Anderson is vegan, and also manages to be a record-breaker water polo player with numerous accolades.
She says, “[being vegan] is something I believe is very possible for athletes at all levels to do.” Eggs, greek yogurt, nuts, beans, and quinoa are all great sources of meatless protein that are found easily and affordable. Another option many athletes take is protein powder. (If you’re interested in purchasing some, use the promo code 219157 for Klean products at this link)
You can never have enough water.
I’ve heard the phrase “hydrate or diedrate” a lot. Don’t get me wrong, hydrating before, during, and after is definitely necessary and maybe not emphasized enough. But there’s a danger with excess hydration. If you’re drinking solely water, and drinking too much of it, you’re putting yourself at risk for hyponatremia, a condition where your sodium levels are too low. Hyponatremia includes a list of symptoms that detrimental to a person’s health and well-being, let alone their athletic performance. So when you’re lapping up that water, make sure you’re also replacing the electrolytes you’re losing during exercise.
You shouldn’t eat before a practice or game, because it might make you feel sick or bloated.
To an extent, this is true. The amount of time between when you eat and when you practice, as well as the type of food that you’re eating can impact your performance. And of course, every athlete is different; what works for 1 person may not work for the next. For Duke student-athlete Daichi Matsuda, eating too close to exercise led to him feeling bloated and cramping up. He’s found that eating 1 to 1 ½ hours prior to practice or competition is ideal. Keep reading for more tips on what to eat and when!
Snacks are always unhealthy.
“Snacks” is just a name, as is “lunch” or “dinner”; they all can be unhealthy if you choose to make it so. There are definitely ways to snack in a way that you’re benefiting from it, both physically and mentally. Listen to your body—if it’s signaling you for food, grab a small bite to eat. Avoid the heavily processed foods and go for the fiber-filled foods to keep you full longer. Acker states, “if [I] don’t have enough time to eat a full meal, [I] need to find some snack that is filling and energizing, without making us feel sick.” Her go-tos are a good bar and a piece of fruit. (Click here for a list of our snack bar recommendations).
Rules for Fuel
It’s best to eat a meal containing fat, carbs and protein 3-4 hours before you exercise
If you exercise early in the morning, there’s usually not much time to digest, but low-fiber foods and fluids that are easily digestible is a quick fix
Stick to simple carbohydrate foods
Eat foods that you’re comfortable and adjusted to
Here are some options if you’re eating closer to your workout (45-60 minutes prior):
Hard boiled eggs
Grilled chicken sandwich
Hydrate! But don’t forget sodium!
Matsuda used to cramp and feel exhausted in the tail end of workouts. He started fueling through means of carb drinks or small bites of energy bars throughout workouts and he’s noticed a significant change.
Replenish your glycogen stores after you finish a workout!
If you’re hoping to build muscle mass, a protein-rich snack could benefit you, by promoting muscle protein synthesis
If you’re not meeting your carb intake goals, combine your carbs with protein to restore glycogen stores and get your necessary amino acids!
Anderson’s go-to post-workout drink is chocolate milk because it provided her the carb and protein content, which she said helped with replenishing her tired muscles.
Check to see if your school or college offers resources for nutrition counseling. (Here’s a good website for trying to find a Registered Sports Dietitian). Talking to a dietitian or nutritionist can get you started in the right direction. As Acker put, “if you can build healthy habits now and learn to like the food that you are eating, it will be much easier for you when you get to college and have unhealthy foods readily available.
Coming into my first internship, I didn’t know what to expect, which made me a little nervous. But my experience at Eat2Perform has been a series of successful surprises. When I started my internship at Eat2Perform I didn’t have a clear idea about what I was going to be doing and what my role would be. I soon realized that it was going to be pretty enjoyable because I would be able to work from home and put my knowledge in sports nutrition to use. In the beginning, I was getting used to working from home and learning the mechanics of social media, case studies, and blogs. Soon, I began to understand what my role was and learned valuable, new skills that came along with my role. Some of these skills consisted of:
Building relationships with people in the work environment is fundamental. I learned that if you want people to recognize your business and who you are, establishing a relationship with influential people is a must. You never know who will be a valuable partner in the future.
There’s so much going on nowadays with social media and all the content being posted, that it can be hard to know what content to put out. Keeping up with what is going on in the community around you is important because you want to stay relevant to your audience.
I never really blogged before, but learning how to blog was fun. It was also a great way of helping me to utilize my writing and research skills. Blogging is much more fun and easy to write because you don’t have to worry about the formatting and it’s much more lenient to write, but the information does have to be accurate and easy to comprehend. My writing skills are not my best attribute, but after having some practice working on blogs, I am definitely much more confident with my writing skills than before the start of the internship.
Social media platforms
Shortly before starting this internship, I was actually trying to distance myself from using social media. As soon as I began the internship I soon realized that using social media would be important. Learning how to use social media platforms such as Twitter, Sprout Social, and Instagram was more work than I anticipated. The team would have to look through Twitter, Instagram, and Sprout Social for topics that were relevant to the active individual and athletic community, in order to come up with ideas for content to create.
Although working on a case study involving an athlete was not entirely new to me, learning how to calculate recommendations for a triathlon athlete specifically was new to me. I calculated resting metabolic rate using the Cunningham equation, calculated hydration needs, macronutrient needs and percentages of total calories needed from macronutrients. At the beginning I was slightly confused with some of the calculations, but as the case study moved along, the recommendations became more clear and understandable because not all athletes have the same requirements. Working on a case study was a good learning experience because it helped give me a better understanding of what needs to be calculated for an athlete to perform at optimal levels for competition and gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I am helping someone to perform at their best.
Be ready to make mistakes and learn from them
An internship is a learning experience and making mistakes will happen. Always do your best and if you are not sure how to do something just ask your colleagues. If I made a mistake, I thought of it as a part of my experience and an opportunity to learn how to not make the same mistake again.
Having the chance to intern at a company such as Eat2Perform has been great. This internship has provided me with meaningful hands on experience that cannot be gained from sitting in a classroom. After going through this internship I have a clearer understanding of what I want to do, and that is to help people perform at their most optimal levels and improve their lifestyle.. From learning different marketing elements to applying sports nutrition knowledge to an athlete, interning at Eat2Perform has been a fun and fulfilling experience.
by Owen Ng
How could knowing more about nutrition help you or your teen perform their best on the field? Check out the Teen Nutrition Workbook to find out: