The athlete's food guide

25 05 2011

For your body to function, it needs at least 40 nutrients that can be divided into the following groups: protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals and water.

When you look at it this way, it makes you realise why people with a limited diet often suffer with health problems. If you take nothing else away from this post, remember that a varied diet is a good diet. It’s healthy to allow yourself to have a treat every now and then, just keep it in moderation.

I’ll also caveat that by saying this guide is for anyone who takes a regular amount of endurance, cardio and resistance training. The more endurance training you do, the more the ratio shifts towards carbohydrates and same goes for resistance but with protein.

Protein

Chicken: Besides fish, this meat is regarded as a staple in any bodybuilders tool kit. It’s full of energy with 150 calories per 100 grams and it also contains niacin, which helps produce energy from all the other foods you eat. One thing to remember is that the skin contains a lot of saturated fat, but cut that out and you will reap the benefits of a food that is rich in protein and muscle building amino acids.

 

Eggs: Opinion on the benefits of eggs seem to change every few years but I love them. Their protein is easily absorbed into the body whilst the yolk contains dietary cholesterol which does not have a massive effect on your health. As testosterone is important in building muscle, the selenium from eggs comes in handy in propagating the hormone.

 

 

Fish: There’s a lot of overfishing going on so I wouldn’t recommend any fish that is dangerously low in numbers. I love fish like Atlantic halibut, wild salmon, blue finned tuna and cod and I’d like to keep them around so I avoid buying them. There are plenty of excellent choices for a protein packed post-workout meal that’s good for the environment: pollock, skipjack tuna or farmed halibut. Coley is also an excellent white fish that is neutral in flavour which means it will absorb a whole host of flavours such as dill or lemon.

Carbohydrates

A common source of energy in most living beings, carbs are metabolised in the body to yield energy. Whether the energy takes the form of glucose, lactose etc depends on what you eat and vary in effectiveness in terms of providing energy. Here are the top foods that are regarded by sports nutritionists as the most effective for your workout.

Sweet Potato: When Usain Bolt was quizzed on the diet behind an record breaking 100 metre time, he credited his success to sweet potatoes and chicken nuggets! Although I wouldn’t recommend the heavily processed chicken nuggets on both a nutritional or ethical level, the sweet potato is a phenomenal source of energy. 20% of the sweet potato is complex carbohydrate with high levels of beta-carotene, another antioxidant. Additional nutrition is in the skin, so they are especially excellent baked with some reduced fat cheese on top.

 

 

 

 

 

Oats: A source of complex carbohydrates provide a steady release of energy and avenococides; the chemical compund that stimulate the muscle building hormone testosterone. They also taste delicious in your cereal bowl with a splash of milk and nutritious fruits like blueberries or strawberries.

 

 

 

 

Bananas: Just two bananas provide a quick boost of energy which will sustain a 90 minute workout. It’s the food of choice before or after an endurance event or sports match and if that’s not enough, it also contains an alkaloid compound called bufotenine, which acts on the brain to improve your mood, self-confidence and your sex drive.

 

Vitamins

 

Brocolli: Those who turn their noses up at the thought of eating brocolli should be happy to learn that just two florets count as one of your five a day. It’s packed with vitamin C which protects your body’s cells against oxidative stress. It also contains folic acid which is essential to repairing and synthesizing your body’s DNA. As if that wasn’t enough, it also contains vitamin K which helps your body regulate insulin.

 

Blueberries: Although it doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking of foods that will aid muscle growth, blueberries contain manganese which is an important tool in the metabolism of protein, carbohydrate and fat. It’s also another great source of vitamin C and fibre, which contributes to a healthy heart and cholesterol level.

 

 

 

Carrots: Although it’s a myth that carrots help you see in the dark, they are an important source of vitamin A. If the body is lacking this vitamin, it can cause sight to fail. Rich in antioxidents, fibre and minerals, carrots contribute to a stable nutritional foundation for anyone who’s serious about physical performance.

 

 

Fats

Your body needs a certain amount of fat to function effectively. But you’ve probably seen that there are a baffling variety of fats: some you should eat, some you shouldn’t. It’s true that saturated fats are bad in excess, but a little facilitates more effective absorption of vitamins D, E and K for stronger bones, the prevention of cancer and helping your blood to clot properly.

Olive oil: Another important source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Olive oil also contains oleic acid  and is a great replacement for other saturated fats. Studies suggest it can also lower total cholesterol levels.

 

 

 

 

Salmon: Rich in Omega 3’s which are thought to be beneficial to our hearts. It’s delicious, versatile and sustainable due to being from a farmed source. Try it with a bit of lemon, chilli or smoked on a bagel with low fat cream cheese. The darker in colour, the better!

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