We all need that pump to get through the day, right? Well, if you have never thought for a moment…athletes need even more to get them through rigorous activities.
Yes, they need to compensate for the energy spent in sporting activities by pumping in some more.
However, eating more doesn’t necessarily mean stocking up on the right stuff. More often than not, it’s what is in each serving that counts.
Getting the right nutrients gives athletes (and you fitness fanatics too) the much-needed endurance while bolstering the body’s immune system for overall health. It also helps enhance bone health and keeps oxidative stress at a minimum.
So, what do athletes eat to keep them going? Whether you are an athlete looking for that extra drive, or just a curious novice trying to figure out what keeps athletes going, this post got the answers you are looking for.
Ahead, you will find everything about healthy eating for athletes, from the nutrients to go for, the best kind of dinner for an active lifestyle, some must-have snacks, and much more.
Let’s get right into it!
What is the Most Important Meal for an Athlete?
Besides the benefits I have already mentioned, athletes need a high amount of micronutrients, along with vitamins and the rest of the bunch. Why? Because it is crucial for muscle growth; that’s why you see most athletes have those bulked-up bodies.
Another factor that makes nutrient intake so important is the high metabolic rates triggered by exercise. That’s right, being full doesn’t mean you are fired up enough for a strenuous activity, you need the right kind of fuel.
We don’t have to dig into every meal that an athlete can or should take. Instead, let us cut right to the chase and look at what should be in the meal.
For the best endurance, immunity, and cognitive functioning, you need sufficient iron intake. While this is kind of a mixed bag of both short and long-term benefits, iron does more to help with your athletic performance.
It comes in handy in aiding the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, as well as fats.
Looking for iron-rich foods? Try these;
Add fortified cereals to your dinner, along with some fruits or veggies for a touch of vitamin C, and then, of course, red meat. The good thing about Vitamin C is that it helps with the absorption of iron for optimal benefits.
You will need calcium for nerve impulses and muscle contraction, and of course, bone strength and growth for mass – very essential for athletes as it helps prevent bone stress or fractures during sport.
For calcium intake, you need to consume such foods as spinach, milk, cheese, almonds, collard greens, fortified cereals, and sardines – eaten with the bones (that’s right, the bones count, too.)
If you live in an area with plenty of sunlight, this might not be as crucial for you as it would be for someone who spends most of the time indoors or lives in an area with less sunlight.
Vitamin D is very helpful in enhancing the functioning of your nervous and skeletal system. Speaking of the skeletal system, it’s worth mentioning that this vitamin is important for optimal calcium absorption and controlling serum calcium along with phosphorus for stronger bones.
To get sufficient amounts of Vitamin D; eat plenty of eggs, fortified milk, supplements, or fatty fish; you know, the likes of salmon, mackerel, and tuna.
These are just some of the most essential nutrients to add to your meal, the list is quite long. But besides those, here are a few more must-have nutrients that you should never pass on.
- Zinc — Found in poultry, oysters, dairy products, whole grains, and legumes. You need this one for protein utilization, metabolic efficiency, thyroid function, and overall immunity.
- Magnesium — It’s abundant in nuts, seeds, whole grains, meat, and dairy, as well as green vegetables (the leafy ones). Magnesium helps with calcium absorption, protein synthesis, which is good for muscles, it also relaxes muscles and nerves among other benefits.
- B Vitamins — B vitamins are essential for repairing muscle tissue after a punishing activity, blood health, metabolism, enhancing cognitive function, and keeping you going. you can get a dose of this from enriched grains, poultry, fish, and meat.
Healthy Dinner for Athletes; What do Athletes eat for Dinner?
When it comes to it, what should be on the table for dinner for athletes who are looking to perform at their best?
What do athletes eat for dinner? That’s hard to say. You see, everyone is different, and thus we all have different tastes, but on the bottom line, here are some healthy meals to add to your diet.
These are my favorite, tasty and healthy treats that leave my taste buds smiling, my tummy full, and my body rejuvenated.
If there’s one thing I love the most about omelets, it has to be the high-quality proteins that I can get out of them. This is more of an all-rounder really, so you can also take it for breakfast as well.
And the best part is that your creativity is the limit here since you can throw in a wide variety of add-ins. Whether it’s some cheese, veggies, fresh herbs, ham, you name it.
But to get the best out of your omelet dinner, make sure to toss in some whole-grain toast (for those high-fiber carbohydrates,) and a bit of nut butter.
Shrimp Stir Fry
Whenever I feel like pumping some omega 3 into my body, I get some shrimp (and you should too) for that and then some. Thankfully, shrimp doesn’t give you only these fats, it also packs in proteins. You need those for bulking up, and B12, which is essential for energy.
What’s more, this meal is easy and fast to cook, even for the lazy folks out there, and yeah, there’s a bucket list of recipes out there. You just can’t go wrong with this one.
Oatmeal recipes come in a wide array of foams. But here I mean the savory oatmeal. What do I like about it? Well, this one gives me the chunk of carbs that I need to make through the day, even on one of those dreaded days when you have to hit the gym or compete.
That’s not all; throw in some herbs, fruit, cheese, and well, spice it up nicely, and you have a warm, mouthwatering yet helpful treat for dinner.
Another way to make it even more delicious is to throw some caramelized onions and a sprinkle of curry powder into the mix; seriously, there are different ways to make your savory oatmeal super delicious.
And when I need to get some proteins while at it, I throw in some soft-boiled eggs too. It’s up to you to decide how you want it!
Snacks for Athletes; Is this even a Good Idea?
Snacks have had their fair share of bad repute, but does that mean athletes can’t get a quick bite sometime during the day or late in the evening?
Of course not! After all, you still need a refill on your calories and nutrients.
However, you need to make sure it’s a healthy one, especially if you are taking one before or after exercise.
What snacks should I ditch?
Anything that floods your body with fats and sugars is an absolute no-no. They don’t offer you the needed energy and nutrients.
If you have been into fitness or sports long enough, then you already know those fried goodies like potato chips, doughnuts and cookies are bad news.
Also, steer clear of candy bars and sodas, and the list just keeps going. These are not considered to be of any nutritional value for athletes.
What snacks are good for me?
To get the best of both worlds, try the following snacks. They will keep you fuelled, but without pumping unwanted sugars and fats into your system.
Some of those in-the-bag bites that are good for your body and sports performance include;
- Canned fruits
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers
- Energy bars or granola bars
- Slices of banana (or apple) taken with peanut butter
- Meal replacement shakes
- Bagel sandwich, whole-grain bread, crackers, hummus…etc
High Calorie, Protein-Rich Shakes for Athletes
In this case, I would recommend going for meal replacement shakes. These allow you to kill 2 birds with one stone, in that you can have that pack in the bag for a sip when you need one.
And no, you don’t have to worry about any unwanted, harmful stuff; if you get the right one.
What’s more, even if you don’t trust that ingredients label on most shakes on the market, you can still blend one yourself. That way you will be sure of what goes into the blender.
Besides, shakes are easy and a snap to beat, so yeah, if you are short on time, this one’s for you. However, don’t make the mistake of entirely replacing shakes with your meals.
What are some of the best protein shake recipes for athletes?
you can decide to be a bit flexible and creative with these, but I will give you a rundown of the basics so you can base on those.
- Nut butter and fruits or veggies — For homemade shakes
- Protein powder — The market has a myriad of these, be keen to get a good one
- Seeds — you can decide whether to use these with your homemade shake or mix them in with your protein powders to flavor things up and add more of the good stuff. Your call!
Vegetarian Athlete Recipes
So, you are a vegetarian? That shouldn’t stop you from getting in the right nutrients. And whether you go for whole meals, or opt for shakes, (actually, you should balance both) you will still get all that you need.
Again, when it comes to hitting the kitchen and cooking up some delicious, nutrient-packed meal, you are in charge. It’s the shakes you should be more careful with.
My favorite is the Kachava meal replacement shake.
This plant-based shake has just about everything you need and is super easy and fast to mix and sip. And yes, you can go wild with it and beat up a variety of recipes.
Even without going out of your way to spice things up, this shake is awesomely tasty and comes in both chocolate and vanilla flavor.
Now, the fact that this is plant-based isn’t to say you can’t get protein and other nutrients with it. Here are the different Kachava blends that you can enjoy for a fulfilling gulp.
- Super-Greens blend
- Protein blend
- Omega EFA or Fiber blend
- Adaptogens blend
- Antioxidant blend
- Digestive Enzyme blend
- Prebiotic and probiotics blend
The Athletes Takeaway
If you are an athlete or just a weightless nerd looking to eat healthily, you are in control of what to eat and what not to. The choices highlighted here-in are going to help you stay healthy, energetic, and even boost your immunity for long-term benefits.
Now, these might not work the same for everyone, try them out and stick with what works the best for you. The choice is all yours — only the goal is the same; eating healthy and stocking up on energy reserves.