Submitted by Michelle Stevenson, MA, RD, CD, registered dietitian at Franciscan Health St. Anthony – Michigan City
The excitement of the 2012 Summer Olympics surrounds us. As the world competes, we can be inspired to look within and see how we can reach our personal best. These elite athletes train both physically and mentally. Years of hard work and dedication culminate into the final event. The Olympians know that the difference between silver and gold may be a fraction of a second or point. To help give them an edge on winning, nutrition is not overlooked. The athletes realize the vital importance of fueling their body for the gold. Even though you are not competing in London, these tips can make a difference in your performance and overall well-being.
- Break the fast. That’s right, start your day with breakfast! Begin your day by refueling your tank. Include whole grains, fruit, lean protein and low fat dairy in your meal. Some simple ideas are whole grain cereal with fat free milk and fruit or a yogurt fruit smoothie.
- Keep hydrated but limit the sugary liquids. Athletes drink plenty of water to keep hydrated through the day and so should you. Choosing fluids with sugar will provide more calories than you require in a day and will cause weight gain. Sports drinks are useful in long distance endurance events. Unless you are competing in those types of events, water is still the best choice for rehydration.
- Eat at home more. Dining out often means large portions packed with high sodium, fats and sugars. Athletes can’t waste their calories on “empty calories.” Empty calories refer to calories that provide little or no nutritional value. Cooking at home allows you to control the ingredients of the meal and the portion size. You can add more fresh vegetables and fruits in your meals and replace sodium with herbs and spices.
- Choose fats wisely and limit fried foods. Fried foods are high in calories and often contain saturated animal fats. These saturated fats contribute to clogged arteries and heart disease. Athletes use more healthful plant based sources of fats such as: nuts, avocados and olive and canola oils.
- Keep fueled all day. Professional athletes follow the principle of eating small frequent meals rather than three meals each day. After a quality breakfast, the athletes continue to fuel throughout the day with healthful meals that include: low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and plant based fats. These mini meals will keep energy levels up for peak performance throughout the entire day.
- Eat carbohydrates. “Carbs” are the body’s main fuel source, so don’t skimp on eating them. Athletes fill their plates with plenty of foods that contain high nutritional value carbs such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains such as quinoa, steel cut oats, brown rice, 100% whole wheat pastas, cereals and breads.