One of the common sayings I hear from parents and coaches when it comes to processed food for athletes “they can eat that, their young and athletic they will just burn it off.” Well, that can’t be further from the truth if you're aiming to be the best version of yourself. Nothing is more beneficial for developing athletes than high quality whole foods. Athletes have higher nutrient and metabolic demands due to the fact that they are growing alongside playing sports year round which enhances the need for high quality food. Below will be information that will aid you as the athlete or the parent in fueling correctly for sport and life.
1. Eat Real Food
From the reports that I receive from my athletes, they typically do not consume enough real food sources daily. If they were to run blood test I am sure we would find major deficiencies that is hindering the process of performing at their maximal potential. The macronutrients obtained from real food (proteins/carbohydrates/fats) are essential for proper recovery and regeneration. Practicing and training breaks down your body; it is a stressful catabolic stimulus that wears the body down. The work itself is not what develops you and improves your performance, the RECOVERY of the work I.E. sleeping and nutrition is what takes you to the next level. Training is a stimulus that tells your body to become more resilient and build the physical qualities to respond to the stress that is provided. It is your job to provide the materials to fuel your improvement. Eating real food that has minimal to zero processing triggers the growth response needed to recover and regenerate to perform at your best.
2. Provide Quality Macronutrients
Protein: Signals and provides the building blocks of all connective tissue recovery (muscle, ligaments). Protein is broken down into amino acids which becomes the building blocks to repair damaged muscle from training. Eating quality protein is a game changer for performance since you will enhance your ability to rebuild muscle.
Sources: Grass Fed steak, chicken, pork as well as fish.
Carbohydrates: After training/practice glycogen stores are depleted which provide immediate energy for the exercising muscle. Therefore, it is essential to refuel appropriately with real food to recover and replenish stores. This is key for athletes since they are typically practicing and training more than once a day. You only get better from the training session you recover from. I tend to stay away from flour based foods such as pastas and enriched white and wheat breads. Though they have carbohydrates which are good, they also are pro-inflammatory which slows the bodies ability to recover, digest, and assimilate food.
Post Training/Practice: Rice, Banana, Potatoes
Throughout Day: Sweet Potatoes, Rice, Fruits
Fats: Fats are essential in appropriate hormone production and providing energy at rest.
Healthy Sources: Nuts (brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts), Avocado, Olive Oils, Fat content on grass fed animals, fish.
It is essential to get nutrition right into athletes after their training sessions. Here are some of my recommendations.
Meal: 30g Protein/40-50g Carbohydrate
4oz Grass Fed Lean Ribeye Steak Or any other lean cut of meat. Simple Carbohydrate source such as white rice and fruit.
The protein is to signal protein synthesis to rebuild connective tissue that has been broken down from training. The carbohydrate from rice is to replenish glycogen stores and reenergize. A serving of fruit is great (berries are awesome) since they have a good source of antioxidants and healthy form of fructose.
Pinched for time? Grass Fed Whey protein supplement or a high quality vegetable based protein that is NSF certified with choice of fruit until the next meal. For my athletes training soon after, adding a dextrose (carbohydrate source) to the protein shake is a viable option as well.
Whole foods are the best foods. When we put low quality processed foods into our athletes we impede their recovery process and inadequately provide the nutrients needed to perform and feel their best. Eating whole food meals throughout the day and providing high quality post-workout nutrition is the key to a robust athlete.