A lot is made of elite level athletes being role models in a world where it’s impossible to escape those with a heightened profile.
Their exploits in their respective fields are shoved in your face, their behaviour away from sport is under a constant spotlight trending on social media and being pushed as front-page news but what about their diet?
That’s something that goes under the radar and, as such, we’re going to look at how to eat like an athlete because – alongside training – it’s fundamental to maximising your potential.
‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. Science hasn’t proven that statement yet but what is known is that it’s not a meal you should be skipping. It’s a crucial meal for kicking your energy levels off after what is essentially a period of fasting (sleep).
That doesn’t mean you need to load up on colossal amounts of food and neither does your morning routine need to start at 4am to whip up a storm in the kitchen. A simple breakfast can still put plenty of carbs and protein in the body – they’re all important for an active body.
Example breakfast: Porridge flavoured with a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter. Mash a banana in for an extra boost.
It’s widely accepted that those who are highly active e.g. athletes need to consume more throughout their day. Unfortunately, too many aspiring fitness buffs think that just means calories. It doesn’t. It means calories plus nutrients. After all, if you put diesel in a petrol car and you’ll soon be having running problems. The same is true of the body and smart snacking can give you the right fuel.
Listen, we’re not saying never eat bad food. Just don’t do it at every snack – even Lionel Messi had to make alterations to the way he fuelled himself. Instead hit some of your main food groups again – think fats, carbs and protein.
Snack example: carrot sticks with hummus dip
The other main meals of the day
There is method to our madness with not splitting lunch and dinner out. We appreciate lives are busy and your diet needs to fit into your life rather than the other way around. When you eat and the order of how you consume your afternoon and evening meal isn’t that important; what is important is trying to establish some form of routine.
This is because your body will learn it and as your routine moves around, your body will give off different signs of being unhappy be it through stomach cramps, headaches or nausea etc.
Decent snacking should help prevent that too but three decent meals are needed to be fighting fit. Across your two meals, try not to avoid any food groups. A balanced diet is important. Try ticking these boxes with your two latter meals – carbs take the majority of your meal at circa 60% with an even split between protein and fats.
Example main meal: whole grain pasta salad with chicken, avocado and seeds.
Hydration during sport is so important but it shouldn’t be ignored in day to day life either; particularly not for people who are constantly active in one form or another.
So, how much should you be drinking? The amount people need varies from person to person but a minimum of two litres is recommended with some leaning towards three.
You hear horror stories of people drinking too much water and, whilst it’s rare, it is genuinely a thing so bare that in mind when you start guzzling from the bottle.
That is easily done post-activity but you’re better off taking on smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day and don’t be afraid to swish it around your mouth and throat either.
Like your cool down, recovery eating is seriously overlooked by amateur athletes. That’s the difference between becoming one of BetAmerica Extra most overrated NBA players, or actually having a long lasting career with a legacy to be proud of. That level of commitment not many athletes have.
They all know it’s important to stock up before an event but afterwards it’s a different story. If you’re reading this, the odds are that you fail to do it too.
It’s so easy. Knock back a shake or chomp through a banana before going about your business again. Your mind and body will be back at it again so much quicker.
A final thought
When you’re looking into diet and nutrition, there are a whole host of specific plans that get shoved down your throat. Ignore them. Do they work?
Some of them do but they’ll never be long term and a winning plan for one person doesn’t mean it’s a win for another. If our word isn’t enough then perhaps LeBron James’ trainer will help to convince you.
There you have it, our guide to aligning your diet with the elite.