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7 Best Nutrition Tips for Athletes

7 Best Nutrition Tips for Athletes

It’s no secret that nutrition can make or break your athletic performance. However, with so much information available to the public, how do you know which nutrition advice to believe?

I understand the confusion and difficulty in finding quality and trustworthy information.  For many years as an athlete, I experienced this same struggle.  Since then, I have sifted through tons of research articles, worked with some of the best in the business, and coached thousands of athletes on the best practices in sports nutrition. In this article, I will summarize my extensive experience into the 7 best nutrition tips for athletes to improve performance.

1) Timing is Everything

Making great food choices before and after a workout is important but the timing of your meal is equally as important to your success. Your goal should be to consume a balanced meal (protein + carbohydrate + fat)  3-4 hours before exercise. This allows for optimal digestion and absorption. An energizing snack, consisting primarily of carbohydrate should be consumed 30-60 minutes immediately before exercise. This allows for a last minute topping of glycogen stores for your muscles to use as fuel during your workout.

Example:

8:00 AM: A few scrambled eggs (protein; amount will vary based on athlete size and sport demands) cooked in avocado oil (fat) with a side of oats (carbohydrate)
11:00 AM: Banana or serving of applesauce
11:30 AM: Workout begins

2) Never Experiment on the Day of Competition

Take a look around you. Every time you tune in to social media, there is something posted regarding the latest and greatest diet fad, pre-workout supplement, or hydration protocol. And if you’re not seeing it on social media, you’ve probably heard something of the sort from your friends, family, teammates or coach. Regardless of what you heard and how amazing it sounds, don’t EVER experiment with something new on the day of competition.

Just because your teammate reacted well to something does not mean that you will. Your DNA, digestive system and gut bacteria are different than the person sitting next to you.

If you want to try a new eating or supplement regimen, go for it, just be sure to have a trial run during one of your training sessions. It is best to choose a training session that most closely mimics your day of competition.

3) Choose Liquid Recovery After a Tough Session

It might be old news to you that refueling immediately post-workout is critical in order for your muscles to experience recovery. However, did you know that nutrition in liquid form digests and absorbs more quickly and easily than food in solid form?

While any nutrition is better than none post-workout, your best bet it to consume a protein-rich beverage or shake within 30 minutes post-exercise. A balanced meal should follow within 1-2 hours post.

For the record, you will see conflicting research on this topic. Some will say that it is not necessary to consume a protein-rich shake immediately post workout. However, this is the approach that has afforded my athletes the most success. Go ahead and try it for yourself. On the day of your toughest workout this week, consume a recovery shake containing 15-25g protein as soon as possible post-workout. Next week, consume nothing or a small meal post workout. Make note of the difference in energy level as well as degree of muscle soreness 1-3 days post-training session. I have a feeling you will notice more rapid muscle recovery on the days following the shake.

4) Find a Great Quality Multivitamin and Stick With It

Eating a balanced diet full of fresh, whole, nutrient-dense foods is my dream for you. Unfortunately, that is not real life for the vast majority of us. We have work, school, and family to squeeze in between training sessions.

Some of us hate cooking and some of us simply do not know how to boil water. Some of us have zero time to grocery shop and others are bound to a cafeteria with very limited options. Not to mention the quality of our air and water is not what it once was. The same can be said for our agricultural practices in the U.S. Plus when you are training hard on a continual basis, your body is blowing through vitamin and mineral reserves. I could go on and on but I will spare you the misery.

My point is that there is so much beyond your control each day. Taking a great quality multivitamin, at the very least during the peak of your season, can be a real game changer. Not sure which one to choose? Here are my top picks:

(Note: the links below are to purchase through Amazon as many people are more accustomed to this approach. However, you must be careful as sometimes the quality of the supplement is not what it should be when it arrives at your doorstep. My insider tip is to check out a company called Wellevate. Wellevate is a safe and secure platform offering professional grade supplements at a discounted price along with excellent customer service. You will always receive the product as you would directly from the source. Check out Wellevate now and save 20% of every order along with free shipping over $49.)

Klean-Athlete-Klean-MultivitaminKlean Multivitamin by Klean Athlete

This a well-balanced multi (with D!) for the high school, collegiate, and professional athlete concerned about NSF Certification for Sport. This means you have zero chances of testing positive for banned substances.

O.N.E Multivitamin by Pure Encapsulations

This is perfect for the individual who does not have to be concerned with NSF certification and is looking for a complete multi in one capsule. Perfect for any adult, especially weekend warriors.

Ultranutrient by Pure Encapsulations

A step above O.N.E. and the one that My husband Michael takes every day, Ultranutrient contains a wide array of vitamins and minerals to meet moderate to high-intensity training demands. Warning: one serving is 3 capsules/day. This may be tough for those of you who do not like to swallow pills.

PhytoMulti by Metagenics

Easily one of the most unique multis on the planet. Not only does this multivitamin contain a days worth of vitamins and minerals but it also contains a wide array of bioactive plant compounds (antioxidants) to help repair cellular damage.  This is perfect for the individual training extremely hard on a daily basis. PhytoMulti is also a perfect fit for the individual who struggles to consume enough colorful fruits and veggies each day.  Unless you have a history of iron deficiency, choose the Phytoulti Without Iron.

5) Eat Fermented Foods to Boost the Immune System

It’s easy to use immune health/frequent illness as an excuse to chug a little extra orange juice. While this may be an easy and tasty approach, there is a better way. Consuming 1-3 servings of fermented foods each day is one of the absolute best ways to improve the health of your immune system.

Our gut is filled with trillions of bacteria. This is where the vast majority of our immune system lies. The goal is to balance the bugs in our gut and have the right amount of good bacteria growing throughout our gastrointestinal tract. Fermented foods serve as premium fuel for the good bugs and assist them in multiplying. The best foods to incorporate include saurkraut, Kombucha tea, kimchi, tempeh and coconut kefir.

6) Hydrate Beyond Water

Water is a magical substance and it should always be the base of your fluid intake. However, for someone who is highly active (training more than 60 min/day at moderate to high intensity), water is often times not enough. If you find yourself experiencing the following, it may be time to incorporate some form of electrolyte beverage during your training sessions:
  • Early onset fatigue during your workouts
  • Poor cognition
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Muscle cramps/burning pain in muscles
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should be drinking a sports drink all day and night. It simply means that incorporating a sports drink immediately before and during a high-intensity workout could help you experience greater energy and focus. Before and after this, it should be all H20 baby!

7) Incorporate Anti-inflammatory Spices Each Day

I always joke with my athletes and say, “ A spice a day keeps the dietitian away!” Why? Because it’s true!

In my professional opinion, incorporating freshly ground spice is one of the most underrated pieces of advice in the world of sports nutrition today. The research is quite strong on the ability of spice to improve overall health.

For example, did you know that cinnamon is known for its ability to lower blood sugar and turmeric is famous for knocking down chronic pain and whole body inflammation? If you are not already including a few teaspoons of spice into your daily eating regimen, it’s about time you start! Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to morning oats
  • Chop 1 inch of ginger root into tiny pieces and saute it in a stir fry
  • Add 2 teaspoons of freshly ground turmeric to marinara sauce (Can’t even taste it!)
  • Add 1 teaspoon of nutmeg to your smoothie in the morning. My favorite combo is 1 cup almond milk + 1 scoop vanilla protein powder + 1/4-1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree + 2 TBSP canned coconut milk + 1 teaspoon of nutmeg+ handful of spinach if you’re feeling wild.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of cayenne to your afternoon hot chocolate for a little pick-me-up
There you have it, the best nutrition tips for athletes in a nutshell. If this is new information to you, consider incorporating one new strategy each week to avoid overwhelm. Remember, fine-tuning your fueling strategies is a long journey.  Start each morning with an amazing breakfast, and just try to get a little bit better each week.
What tips and tricks have you found to be critical to a successful performance? Have you crashed and burned by changing things at the last minute or learned some awesome tips you would love to share? Let us know in the comments below.  We would love to know.

About The Author

Kylene Bogden

Kylene Bogden is one of the most well respected Functional Sports Dietitians in the United States. As a high school and collegiate sprinter, she experienced recurrent injury and fatigue. After years of constant struggle, she eventually learned that an abundance of processed foods and poor fueling strategies were the root of her performance issues. Kylene's personal journey as an athlete fueled her passion for finding a more progressive approach to sports nutrition. Since then, she has helped thousands of individuals dramatically improve overall health and athletic performance by taking a whole food approach. To learn more about Kylene's story and how a functional nutrition approach can help you to achieve your goals, simply click on the contact us link in the upper right-hand corner today!

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Kylene Bogden Sports Nutrition Dietitian

Kylene Bogden Sports Nutrition Dietitian

Kylene Bogden, RDN

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