Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Make sure to get a quick energy and brain boost by consuming a high-carbohydrate breakfast that combines fiber from whole grains and fruit as well as protein from lean breakfast meats, eggs, reduced-fat dairy products, and nuts/nut butters.
Be sure to consume a healthy, balanced meal 3-4 hours prior to practice/competition. A small snack 1-2 hours prior will also help top off energy stores as long as your snack is high in carbohydrates. Good choices include a whole grain bagel with peanut butter, yogurt with fruit and low-fat granola, baked chips or pretzels and reduced-fat cheese, and a bowl of whole-grain cereal and milk.
Sports drinks are often needed during workouts lasting longer than an hour. Trusted brands such as Gatorade or Powerade replace fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat and also provide carbohydrates to help keep your muscles fueled for performance.
Eating after practice/competition is just as important as eating before. Making sure to recover correctly with food can help to repair muscles and replenish energy stores so that you are ready for your next training session. Recovery foods include low-fat chocolate milk, fruit smoothies made with yogurt, or trail mix that includes dried fruit and nuts along with a sports drink.
Hydrating throughout the day is important. When you become dehydrated, it can decrease your performance by 10-15%. Be sure to drink adequate fluids before, during, and after training as well.
Simple carbohydrates such as candy, pop, fruit drinks, desserts, and processed snacks may give you a burst of energy, but this burst of energy will be short-lived and hinder performance more than help. Choosing more complex carbohydrates will help to extend energy (without a crash) while also supplying important nutrients. Smart options include fruit, reduced-fat milk and yogurt, beans and lentils, potatoes, and whole grain bread, cereal, pasta, rice, and crackers.
Unsaturated fats should be included in a healthy diet and make up 20-30% of total daily calories. Unsaturated fats include avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds, fatty fish, and liquid oils such as olive, canola, and safflower oil.
Snacking is perfectly healthy and can help to make sure you are meeting your nutrient needs. Smart snacking includes planning ahead by preparing/packing nutrient-dense snacks the day ahead, establishing a routine to help prevent feeling overly hungry, and keeping nonperishable snacks in easily accessible places for quick fuel when needed.
One good meal prior to practice/games does not compensate for a poor overall diet. A high carbohydrate diet along with adequate protein and healthy fats is needed daily to help prevent nutrient deficiencies and to make sure your body is properly fueled for enhanced performance.
Always eat familiar foods prior to competition. Experimenting with new foods and various amounts should be done during training to determine what works best for you and will not cause unwanted side effects such as queasiness, gas, heartburn, cramps, or digestive discomfort.
Top Sports Foods
Low-Fat Yogurt or Greek Yogurt
Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
Nuts and Nut Butters
Fatty Fish (Tuna, Salmon, Herring, Mackerel)
Whole Grains (whole wheat bread and tortillas, brown rice and pasta, popcorn, whole grain cereals and crackers)