Jacob Mcquirk running at a cross country meet. Photography by: Maya Hatch
Jacob Mcquirk running at a cross country meet. Photography by: Maya Hatch

How Eating Healthy Can Help Your Overall Athletic Performance

December 10, 2021

Do you want to improve your performance in your sport? If so, listen up. You can change your performance by simply putting healthy and good food in your body without taking any overly-restrictive dieting measures.

To start, often individuals do not understand how the simplicity of eating healthy can immensely improve how well athletes compete. The typical American diet contains too many calories from fat and added sugar, as well as far too much-saturated fat, salt, and refined carbohydrates. These numbers have increased since 2019, in which Americans consumed less added sugar and more poultry, almonds, and whole grains.

In order to start eating healthier and changing their dietary habits, athletes must first distinguish the number of nutrients that their sport requires. For example, a runner might not eat as much protein in comparison to a football player because cross country requires them to be lean and to run anywhere from 3 to 10 miles in a day. With this, any athlete’s diet should be divided into 55 percent carbohydrates, 12 to 15 percent protein, and less than 30 percent fat. Athletes who exercise vigorously for more than 60 to 90 minutes each day may need to raise the percentages of energy they obtain from carbohydrates from 65 percent to 70 percent.

To meet these percentages, athletes need to make carbohydrates an essential part of their diet as they help one fuel and recover. Foods that are rich in unrefined carbohydrates, like whole-grain bread and cereals, are the simplest way to do this.

Nolan Walt racing for the win. Photography by: Maya Hatch

With this, one can also choose to indulge in pre-event meals that they eat before a game. The pre-event workout meal is an important part of the athlete’s preparation, as well. Usually, these meals include cereal and low-fat milk, toast, muffins, fruit salad, yogurt, or pasta with a tomato-based sauce. The variety of meals offers athletes to not be restricted, however, they still have the opportunity to eat how they please to feel confident within the game.

Following an exercise, it is imperative that athletes eat no more than 30 minutes after in order to build muscle and best support their body. When our bodies refill on the carbohydrates and protein within these meals, glycogen repairs and regenerates muscle proteins. This process is extremely important as eating the correct nutrients also helps their body complete tasks quicker.

Although athletes can uphold these diets and eating habits, it is not to say that one needs to eat strict pre-prepared meals every time. Discipline in eating habits and watching what you eat is just as important as sticking to these restrictions. If athletes stick to spreading out what they eat throughout the day and to having only a few small cheat meals, they will avoid eating too many calories and inflating their bodies. Even famous athletes such as Tom Brady and Chris Paul have agreed with this idea of discipline, stating that their diets help them play longer and avoid injury.

Even if you are not an athlete, you can still have a healthy diet to avoid unwanted weight gain. Furthermore, being overweight or obese increases your chance of developing certain diseases such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Unfortunately, many Americans are not at a healthy weight due to their diet. Thus, it is of the utmost importance that individuals make personal choices every day to enhance the way their bodies are fueled and follow some of the dietary restrictions mentioned above. By minimizing processed meals, and instead, eating fresh, natural foods, collectively one can feel much better.

Remember, eating healthy foods doesn’t have to be a struggle. There are multiple options for every person and thousands of meals to try. Simply take it one step at a time, don’t restrict your diet, and you will be able to improve your athletic performance as a whole!

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