It doesn’t matter what your activity level is- eating like an athlete will help you perform at your best and support good health. After all food is our fuel and we know that putting in the right fuel to an engine will make it run well. So let’s take a look at this positive way of eating, so we can all use food to feel and perform at our best.
Focus on what to eat
Eating for performance shouldn’t mean dieting. Focus more on what to eat rather than on what not to eat. No one likes to feel deprived so skip the dieting food rules and ask yourself:
- Have I had 2 fruit, 5 serves of vegetables
- A handful of nuts
- Some wholegrain cereals (e.g. brown rice, oats, barley, wholemeal pasta)
- Is there a food with protein in each meal (e.g. cheese, duck, red meat, fish, legumes, nuts, tofu) to help with keeping my muscle mass?
- Some healthy fats (e.g. nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado)
Once you add in all these foods to eat in a day, there wont be much room left for the less nutritious foods anyway.
Your food intake should be suited to you, meeting your physical activity and health requirements. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to everyone else.
Eating with awareness
Do you think about how hungry and full you are? An athlete can doesn’t perform best if over or under fuelled. We are the same too. Overeating can make you feel sluggish and want to go to sleep. Under eating certainly leaves me ‘hangry’ finding it hard to concentrate.
- Ask yourself before you serve up how hungry am I?
- Whilst eating check in with yourself and stop when you have had enough. Try to eat mindfully. You can read more about that here.
- Don’t reward yourself for undereating and skipping meals. You need to fuel yourself for life!
Sometimes we have a picture in our mind of how we would like to eat but when we look a little closer it isn’t what is happening e.g. take away is thrown in more than we realise, a few extra alcoholic drinks, ran out of vegetables, skipped lunch and raided the biscuit tin.
To make the dream a reality, being prepared can help, like having some easy to prepare foods in the fridge. Duck works well here. You can buy the breasts or legs ready to pop in the pan or oven and throw some fresh or frozen vegetables together or even a delicious salad.
As we have said planning is key. Mapping out at least some of the evening meals and writing a shopping list will help with having a stock of nourishing food readily available to prepare. Find some new recipes you might like. You can find some nutritious recipes here at Dietitians Australia or delicious duck recipes here. Think about your training or day ahead, what snacks might be needed, meals that need preparing in advance. Don’t leave it to chance.
An athlete would think about what they will eat before and after training or competition and have this ready to go, you can too. Try cooking extra vegetables at dinner to put into a lunch the next day. A roasted vegetable salad with some chopped up duck breast will be something to look forward to during the work day and have all your work colleagues wanting your lunch!
Planning helps make the healthy choices the easy choices. If the nourishing food is there ready you are more likely to eat.
A key area for atheltes and all of us is being well hydrated. We can forget to drink enough water when sitting at the desk all day, and being in environments such as air-conditioning and heating which are very dehydrating. Have water next to you.
You can use thirst as a rough guide on when to drink, it certainly is time to have a drink when you are thirsty. Aiming for your urine to be the colour of pale straw is a reasonable guide also, apart from some medications and supplements that can change the colour. Beetroot and asparagus can also change the colour too!
For most of us water is the best drink- it is good for our teeth too. Milk is a also a good hydration drink with protein and carbohydrate perfect for recovery or pre training fuel. Only high intensity over around 90minutes of exercise and/or very hot conditions really needs sports drinks. Speak to an Accredited Sports Dietitian if you think these might be for you.
We can all be athlete’s in our own right. It is a positive way of looking at your diet and health. Elite athlete’s look after their bodies to have them perform at their best, so why shouldn’t we do that too.
Simone Austin – Advanced Sports Dietitian