4/28/17

Attention athletes! Don't overlook your special nutritional requirements.

As an athlete, you have special nutritional requirements compared to your fellow exercise enthusiasts. There's a good chance that you do more volume of exercise during a long workout than most people do in a week. Although this may make you feel a bit superhuman at times, it may also make you feel exhausted and worn out a lot of the time. Thus, it is important to take your "athlete in training" title, very seriously, recognizing that you can only adapt to training if you have a good understanding of your individual nutritional needs AND you meet them on a daily basis. 

In working with athletes, I am never surprised how many athletes struggle to meet daily energy needs. Not only is it tough to be an athlete but it's tough to eat like an athlete!
Consider how the following affects how you well (or not well) you meet your daily energy needs:
-Training load (volume, frequency, intensity)
-Family commitments

-Meetings/social events
-Work commitments/travel
-Lack of appetite
-Little time to eat
-Poor meal planning/prep

-Environmental stress (heat/cold)
-Dietary trends/body image concerns
-Appetite/cravings
-Timing of food
-Influence of professionals/other athletes/social media
-Availability/convenience of food/drinks
As I mentioned above, you are not like other people. The athlete mindset is to adapt to each training session to better prepare for race day. Thus, every training session is an investment to your development and ultimately, your goal is to maximize fitness with the least amount of training stress.

As an athlete, your active lifestyle is quite extreme and because of that, it is important that you understand why nutrition is so critical to helping you achieve success in your sport and why you need to make the effort, every day, to stay on top of your daily and sport nutrition needs.

As an athlete, you need an opportunity, an appetite, awareness, knowledge and availability to consume adequate nutrients and fluids in recommended amounts to meet your daily energy needs, which is dependent on your training load.

As an athlete, you have high energy costs because of your high energy expenditure. In other words, you must meet carbohydrate, protein, fluid and electrolyte needs every single day to ensure that you can stay healthy and consistent with training.  If you do not meet your daily needs, your body begins to fatigue, you struggle to keep your body in good metabolic and hormonal health and you increase risk for injury, sickness, burnout or over training. 

As an athlete, you must spend more time than other people to strategically plan your meals and your snacks and to also time your nutrition around workouts. So in your already busy life, yes, you still need to make YOUR eating a priority.

As an athlete, with the racing season quickly approaching (or you may already be in it), 
I strongly encourage you to not overlook how critical and extremely necessary it is focus on your food consumption and nutrient quality throughout the day. Busy schedules, lack of planning and intentional undereating will negatively affect training so do yourself a favor and make nutrition a key component to your active lifestyle. 
As an athlete, you have the energy to train so dedicate some of that energy to healthy eating and proper fueling/hydration. Consider that that extra energy on your diet can actually help you train harder, longer and faster!
As an athlete, you likely have a tremendous amount of information on how to fuel and hydrate for workouts, how to fuel properly before/after workouts and you likely understand the basics of how to eat a healthy diet throughout the day. Apply this information to your daily life so that eating, fueling and hydration does not become an after thought. I see it all the time but athletes do not make healthy eating, fueling and hydration a priority until something bad happens with the body. 
As you continue with your summer training, consider that a loss of appetite, heavy training, fatigue, poor access to suitable (or healthy foods) and distractions from proper eating can all negatively affect your ability to train well and keep your body in good health, during the time of the year when you expect your body to perform the best. 

As an athlete, there are no magic bullets or secret nutrition tips to boosting performance. Consistent training, proper fueling/hydration, planning ahead and understanding what works best for you will help you get to that next level.

Here are a few simple nutrition guidelines to help you achieve athletic excellence: 
  1. Plan your day of eating before it happens. Plan out your nutrition before/during/after workouts, 3 meals and a satisfying snack between your meals. 
  2. For every workout, don't just show up. Have a plan for hydration and fueling before/during/after all workouts. 
  3. If you have an off day or a bad workout, underfueling or overexercising will not make things better. Just move on with the methods that are working for you so that you can stay consistent with training. 
  4. If you have a bad workout and you feel like your methods are no longer working for you, reach out to a Board Certified Sport Dietitian for help. 
  5. Don't be afraid to focus on (and eat for) your own nutrition needs when eating with family, friends and co-workers. 
  6. Plan ahead! You must shop and prepare food before a hectic day happens.
  7. Plan ahead! You must prepare your pre and post snacks/meals before fatigue/tiredness/business sets in.
  8. Sport nutrition products not only help you perform high quality training sessions and keep your body in good health but they bring confidence for race day application. 
  9. Always consider how your environment and terrain will affect how you fuel/hydrate before, during and after workouts. 
As an athlete, if you are committing yourself to training for an upcoming event, consider the reward to your training investment when you can confidently say that your nutrition is enhancing your performance and health and that your mind (and not your nutrition) is your only limiter in training and on race day.