The Importance of Good Nutrition for TriAthy Athletes
Becoming a better Tri athlete isn't just about what you do in the gym and in races -- nutrition is a vital component too. What you eat plays a critical role in your energy levels, performance and recovery.
To understand what you should eat and when, you need to know the main facts about nutrition for optimal athletic performance.
Here are some tips to help you live a healthy life and perform at your best:
1. Load Up on Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are an athlete’s main fuel. They are converted to glucose, a form of sugar, which is stored in muscles as glycogen. When you exercise, your body converts glycogen into energy. If you exercise for under 90 minutes, the stores of glycogen in your muscles are enough to fuel even high-intensity activity.
To achieve maximum carbohydrate storage, experts recommend eating a diet that gets about 70% of its calories from carbohydrates, including breads, cereals, pasta, fruit, and vegetables. For activities lasting longer than 90 minutes, it’s important to replenish carbohydrates, minerals, and water during exercise. Experts suggest you eat a snack and drink fluid every 15 to 20 minutes. Refined carbohydrates (with sugar or flour) pass quickly into the bloodstream, where they fuel working muscles. Many athletes prefer sports bars, sports drinks, or gels, since they’re so convenient. But fruit or fruit juice are also excellent choices!
2. Consume Enough — but Not Too Much — Protein
Protein, composed of chains of molecules called amino acids, plays an important role in the building, maintenance, and repair of the tissues of the body, including muscle. There are 20 different amino acids in the foods we eat, but our bodies can make only 11 of them. The nine essential amino acids that cannot be produced by the body must be obtained from the diet. A diet based on a variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables easily provides all of the essential amino acids.
Plant-based protein sources are best because, unlike animal sources, they can contain fiber.Concentrated protein sources are not needed. However, abundant protein is found in tofu, soy milk, tempeh, seitan, and various meat analogues.
Protein requirements are very individualised and are primarily dependent on body size.
For Athletes Looking for Extra Protein
Top salads with a variety of beans, including chickpeas, kidney beans, great northern beans, and black beans. These legumes have as much as 7 to 10 grams of protein per serving.
Shake it up! Blend non dairy milks or soft tofu with your favorite fresh or frozen fruits for a thick, delicious, creamy high-protein shake.
Marinated tempeh or veggie burgers, grilled on a bun or added to pasta sauce, offer a quick protein boost to any meal.
On the go? Nutrition bars and plant based powder shakes are quick and convenient supplements that can help increase the protein content of any well-balanced vegetarian diet.
3. Go Easy on Fat
For long events, such as marathons, the body turns to fat for energy when carbohydrate sources run low. But most athletes get all the fat they need by following basic dietary guidelines: Eat mostly unsaturated fat from foods such as nuts, avocados, olives, vegetable oils, and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Experts recommend avoiding fatty foods on the day of an event, since they can cause stomach distress for some people.
The key point about fats is that animal fats are high in saturated fat and should be avoided. High-fat diets are not recommended for athletes.
4. Stay hydrated
Dehydration can hurt your performance so drink plenty of fluids before, during and after physical activity. Water works great for staying hydrated so carry a water bottle with you throughout the day so you always have some on hand. Sports drinks, which contain fluid, glucose and electrolytes, are also a good option, especially in hot weather or for activities lasting more than an hour.
One way to monitor hydration is to keep an eye on the color of your urine. A pale yellow color means you’re getting enough fluid. Bright yellow or dark urine means you’re falling short.
Athletes demand a lot from their bodies. Fueling it properly is essential to get the most out of your body. If you own a Ferrari, are you going to fill it up with the cheap petrol, or the premium gas? Treat your body like it’s a Ferrari. Fuel up with high quality foods that are going to help you achieve your goals!
( source: healthyeating.sfgate.com; www.pcrm.org; www.verywellfit.com; www.2ksportstraining.com)